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[han-dl] /ˈhæn dl/
a part of a thing made specifically to be grasped or held by the hand.
that which may be held, seized, grasped, or taken advantage of in effecting a purpose:
The clue was a handle for solving the mystery.
  1. a person's name, especially the given name.
  2. a person's alias, nickname, or code name.
  3. a username, as on a social media website:
    What's your Twitter handle?
  4. a name or term by which something is known, described, or explained.
the total amount wagered on an event, series of events, or for an entire season or seasons, as at a gambling casino or in horse racing:
The track handle for the day was over a million dollars.
the total amount of money taken in by a business concern on one transaction, sale, event, or series of transactions, or during a specific period, especially by a theater, nightclub, sports arena, resort hotel, or the like.
hand (def 27).
Informal. a way of getting ahead or gaining an advantage:
The manufacturer regards the new appliance as its handle on the Christmas market.
verb (used with object), handled, handling.
to touch, pick up, carry, or feel with the hand or hands; use the hands on; take hold of.
to manage, deal with, or be responsible for:
My wife handles the household accounts. This computer handles all our billing.
to use or employ, especially in a particular manner; manipulate:
to handle color expertly in painting.
to manage, direct, train, or control:
to handle troops.
to deal with (a subject, theme, argument, etc.):
The poem handled the problem of instinct versus intellect.
to deal with or treat in a particular way:
to handle a person with tact.
to deal or trade in:
to handle dry goods.
verb (used without object), handled, handling.
to behave or perform in a particular way when handled, directed, managed, etc.:
The troops handled well. The jet was handling poorly.
fly off the handle, Informal. to become very agitated or angry, especially without warning or adequate reason:
I can't imagine why he flew off the handle like that.
get / have a handle on, to acquire an understanding or knowledge of:
Can you get a handle on what your new boss expects?
Origin of handle
before 900; (noun) Middle English handel, Old English hand(e)le, derivative of hand; (verb) Middle English handelen, Old English handlian (cognate with German handlen, Old Norse hǫndla to seize), derivative of the noun
Related forms
handleable, adjective
handleability, noun
handleless, adjective
overhandle, verb (used with object), overhandled, overhandling.
prehandle, verb (used with object), prehandled, prehandling.
rehandle, verb (used with object), rehandled, rehandling.
14. sell, vend, carry, market; hawk, peddle. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for handle
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The question, he said, was one for a responsible Ministry alone to handle.

    The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook
  • This tassel is for catching the blood and preventing it from greasing the handle.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • Cool enough to handle and then remove the skin and the roots.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 3 Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences
  • They are "safe, because they are too filthy to handle, and too noisome even to approach."

    The Story of the Malakand Field Force Sir Winston S. Churchill
  • Something was wrong; it would not turn; she drew it out and tried the handle.

British Dictionary definitions for handle


the part of a utensil, drawer, etc, designed to be held in order to move, use, or pick up the object
(NZ) a glass beer mug with a handle
(slang) a person's name or title
a CB radio slang name for call sign
an opportunity, reason, or excuse for doing something: his background served as a handle for their mockery
the quality, as of textiles, perceived by touching or feeling
the total amount of a bet on a horse race or similar event
(informal) fly off the handle, to become suddenly extremely angry
verb (mainly transitive)
to pick up and hold, move, or touch with the hands
to operate or employ using the hands: the boy handled the reins well
to have power or control over: my wife handles my investments
to manage successfully: a secretary must be able to handle clients
to discuss (a theme, subject, etc)
to deal with or treat in a specified way: I was handled with great tact
to trade or deal in (specified merchandise)
(intransitive) to react or respond in a specified way to operation or control: the car handles well on bends
Derived Forms
handleable, adjective
handled, adjective
handleless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English; related to Old Saxon handlon (vb), Old High German hantilla towel
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for handle

Old English handle, formed from hand (n.) with instrumental suffix -le indicating a tool in the way thimble was formed from thumb. The slang sense of "nickname" is first recorded 1870, originally U.S., from earlier expressions about adding a handle to (one's) name, i.e. a title such as Mister or Sir, attested from 1833. To fly off the handle (1833) is a figurative reference to an ax head (to be off the handle "be excited" is recorded from 1825, American English). To get a handle on "get control of" is first recorded 1972.


Old English handlian "to touch or move with the hands," also "deal with, discuss;" see handle (n.). Akin to Old Norse höndla "to seize, capture," Danish handle "to trade, deal," German handeln "to bargain, trade." Related: Handled; handling. Meaning "to act towards (someone) in a certain manner" (usually with hostility or roughness) is from c.1200. The commercial sense was weaker in English than in some other Germanic languages, but it emerged in American English (1888) from the notion of something passing through one's hands, and cf. handler.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for handle



  1. A person's name, nickname, or alias: He is known by that handle ever since to all his pals/ Many people use handles for themselves instead of their real names (1870+)
  2. The gross receipts or the profit of a sporting event, a gambling game, an illegal operation, etc: A total handle of between 4 and 10 billion a year in the handbooks, the numbers, and the slots (1920s+)
  3. The amount of money bet on a specific race or game, or in a particular day or week, etc: The handle at Belmont dropped today on account of the blizzard (1920s+ Gambling)
  4. A way of approaching or grasping something; an initial and relevant insight: Women. I don't seem to have a handle on them/ So we may have less handle on him than we did before (1972+)


To cope with; manage; hack: He can handle Tom's temper tantrums very well/ My wife left me and I don't know how to handle it (1970s+)

Related Terms

fly off the handle, get a handle on something, panhandle

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with handle
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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