Hand over fist

Posted by ESC on January 23, 2004

In Reply to: Hand over fist posted by Henry on January 23, 2004

: : We've been wondering what "hand over fist" realy does mean, anyone got any deas please?

: : Thanks a lot Catz

: From the archives;Posted by Bruce Kahl on January 30, 2000
: In Reply to: hand over fist posted by Brian Barger on January 30, 2000

: : What does hand over fist mean?

: The original expression was hand over hand, which was chiefly nautical and referred literally to rope work: climbing a rope, or pulling something in with a rope, would be "climbing it hand over hand," that is, with each hand brought over the other.

: This was then extended figuratively to mean 'with continuous progress; with regular advances', especially as used of a ship chasing and gaining on another ship. From here it's a very small step to 'speedily; increasingly', the sense in "making money hand over fist," which is about the only way the phrase is found nowadays.

: The form hand over fist, instead of the original hand over hand, is an obvious and natural variant (close your hand around a rope and you do, indeed, make a fist).

: The literal use of hand over hand is recorded in English by the middle of the eighteenth century. The figurative use, and the hand over fist form (in all senses), appear by the early nineteenth century.

HAND OVER FIST -- "Taking something in rapidly (usually money).This one started as 'hand over hand,' which was the way a sailor went up or down the rigging or brought in a line. In this form, the expression was familiar in the 18th century and probably earlier. The notion of gathering money in rapidly, with a fistful of coins being stowed away with one hand while the other hand reaches for more, came on (probably in the United States) in the 19th century." From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).