[hand-mee-doun, han-]


an article of clothing passed on to another person after being used, outgrown, etc.: The younger children wore the hand-me-downs of the older ones.
any item not new that is or can be used again: Our office furniture was a collection of hand-me-downs.


passed along for further use by others: some hand-me-down clothes from my older brother.
borrowed or adapted from other sources; derivative: a street full of hand-me-down architecture.

Origin of hand-me-down

First recorded in 1870–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for hand-me-down

secondhand, used, worn, reach-me-down, second-hand

Examples from the Web for hand-me-down

Contemporary Examples of hand-me-down

  • The heaps of gifted and hand-me-down pink frilly clothes and accessories grew far faster than we were able to sort and store them.

  • You might not have been so cheap this year and accepted a hand-me-down (I mean ALL they want is the candy anyhow).

    The Daily Beast logo
    Ding Dong, You Have Lice

    Kent Sepkowitz

    October 31, 2013

Historical Examples of hand-me-down

  • Not only his clothes, but also his haircuts were hand-me-down.

    At Good Old Siwash

    George Fitch

  • It was, in all its sad irony, the vulgar "hand-me-down that!"

  • He was of medium height, dressed fairly well in a hand-me-down, and sported a flaming red necktie.

    Edith and John

    Franklin S. Farquhar

  • That's the flat truth, and I'd like to shake your Jake Kasker out of his suit of hand-me-down clothing.

    Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls

    Edith Van Dyne (AKA L. Frank Baum)

  • The Socialist cook exchanged his greasy dungarees for a pair of hand-me-down creaseless serge pants.

    The Flying Bo'sun

    Arthur Mason

British Dictionary definitions for hand-me-down


noun informal

  1. something, esp an outgrown garment, passed down from one person to another
  2. (as modifier)a hand-me-down dress
  1. anything that has already been used by another
  2. (as modifier)hand-me-down ideas
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

Word Origin and History for hand-me-down

as a modifier, attested by 1826.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper