- having nothing in the hands, as in doing no work: While we were carrying out the luggage, he stood by empty-handed.
- having gained nothing: to return from a quest empty-handed.
- bringing no gift, donation, etc.: They came to the birthday party empty-handed.
Origin of empty-handed
First recorded in 1605–15
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for empty-handed
The mission was unsuccessful as he returned home “empty-handed.”The Ominous Meaning of North Korea’s Missile Launches
Gordon G. Chang
February 28, 2014
For the White House, returning twice from Copenhagen empty-handed would represent more than an embarrassment.Is Obama Too Late?
December 17, 2009
My service to the Prince, but I wish he had not come here so empty-handed.Memoirs of the Jacobites of 1715 and 1745
He went, however, only to return a few hours later, empty-handed.The Fulfilment of a Dream of Pastor Hsi's
A. Mildred Cable
But game was scarce and Jack was returning to Gardiner empty-handed and disgusted.Wild Animals at Home
Ernest Thompson Seton
He was compelled to return to England as empty-handed as when he went out.True to His Home
The farm was poor and was mortgaged, and empty-handed I turned away.The Jucklins
- carrying nothing in the hands
- having gained nothingthey returned from the negotiations empty-handed
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