[ hand-tuh-hand ]

  1. close to one's adversary; at close quarters: hand-to-hand combat.

Origin of hand-to-hand

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use hand-to-hand in a sentence

  • They held the compound against repeated assaults, and lost several men in hand-to-hand fighting.

    The Red Year | Louis Tracy
  • Now came a hand-to-hand struggle which looked as if it must end in the death of Smith and perhaps of several of his assailants.

    Overland | John William De Forest
  • Men on each side now rushed to board the enemy's ship, and there was a hand-to-hand fight at the bulwarks of the two ships.

  • A bloody hand-to-hand encounter took place under the arch that joined the two towers on either side of the gate.

  • As this night might see rousing hand-to-hand work with rioters the swords might have their place.

British Dictionary definitions for hand-to-hand


adjective, adverb
  1. at close quarters: they fought hand-to-hand

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with hand-to-hand


In close combat; also, at close quarters. For example, If the enemy came any closer they would soon be fighting hand to hand. This expression, dating from about 1400, is usually restricted to military contexts but occasionally sees more general use.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.