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From Middle English palmestrie, from Latin [Term?].


palmistry (usually uncountable, plural palmistries)

  1. Telling fortunes from the lines on the palms of the hand.
    • 1546, Thomas Langley, An Abridgement of the Notable Woorke of Polidore Vergile, London, Book 1, Chapter 18, p. 34b,[1]
      Chiromantie is a coniecturyng by beholdyng the lynes, or wryncles of the handes called commonly Palmistry.
    • 1593, Michael Drayton, Idea the Shepheards Garland, London: Thomas Woodcocke, Eglog 5, p. 32,[2]
      And those fayre hands within whose louely palmes,
      Fortune diuineth happie Augurie,
      Those straightest fingers dealing heauenly almes,
      Pointed with pur’st of Natures Alcumie,
      Where loue sits looking in loues palmistrie.
    • 1626, Barten Holyday, Three Sermons vpon the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Sauior, London: Nathaniell Butter, “A Sermon preached at Christ-church in Oxford on Ascension-day,” p. 94,[3]
      [] but his [God’s] right hand of truth and bountie, does by a Catholike and vnfeigned Palmistrie, shew the blessings prouided for other men!
    • 1664, Samuel Butler, Hudibras, London, 1684, Part 2, Canto 3, p. 390,[4]
      He must (at least) hold up his hand,
      By twelve Free-holders to be scan’d,
      Who by their skill in Palmistry,
      Will quickly read his Destiny;
    • 1847, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Chapter 18,[5]
      I have seen a gipsy vagabond; she has practised in hackneyed fashion the science of palmistry and told me what such people usually tell.
    • 1941, H. G. Wells, You Can’t Be Too Careful, London: Secker & Warburg, Book 1, Chapter 1,[6]
      If you had cared to do so, you could have told the little chap’s fortune from those hands. They were not flat and featureless as you might have expected them to be; already they had all the lines and creases known to palmistry.
  2. (countable) A book on palmistry; a system of palmistry.
    • 1977, Peter Scupham, The Hinterland, Oxford University Press, p. 27,[7]
      No living palmistries can spell
      The bird-runes on the stretched silk of her hand
    • 1991, Eriko Amino, “A Medieval Palmistry” in Columbia Library Columns, Volume 40, No. 1, May 1991, p. 31,[8]
      Both the composition and the transmission of this palmistry must be taken in the context of the medieval Christian world, in which the life on earth was still secondary to the life in the hereafter; even so, texts such as these palmistries do make the unreadable mysteries of one’s relationship to the world seem more familiar and more accessible.
    • 1996, Richard Grossinger, New Moon, Berkeley, CA: Frog, Part 7, Chapter 2, p. 534,[9]
      To fulfill my graduate language requirement I began reading Michel Foucault’s work on signatures, Les Mots et Les Choses, which joined the meanings of the bestiaries, herbals, palmistries, and physiognomies of olden Europe to the totemic orders of plants and animals among the Arapaho, Xhosa, and Aranda.
  3. (obsolete, rare) A dexterous use or trick of the hand.
    • 1711, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Spectator, Volume 2, No. 130, 30 July, 1711, London: J. and R. Tonson, 12th edition, 1739, p. 182,[10]
      In the Height of his Good-humour, meeting a common Beggar upon the Road who was no Conjuror, as he went to relieve him he found his Pocket was pick’d: That being a Kind of Palmistry at which this Race of Vermin are very dextrous.


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