[ hand-foo l ]
/ ˈhænd fʊl /

noun, plural hand·fuls.

the quantity or amount that the hand can hold: a handful of coins.
a small amount, number, or quantity: a handful of men.
Informal. a person or thing that is as much as one can manage or control: The baby's tantrums made him a handful.

Nearby words

  1. handel, george frideric,
  2. handelian,
  3. handfast,
  4. handfasting,
  5. handfeed,
  6. handgrip,
  7. handgun,
  8. handheld,
  9. handheld computer,
  10. handhold

Origin of handful

before 900; Middle English, Old English. See hand, -ful

Usage note

See -ful.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for handful

British Dictionary definitions for handful


/ (ˈhændfʊl) /

noun plural -fuls

the amount or number that can be held in the hand
a small number or quantity
informal a person or thing difficult to manage or control
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 handful



Old English handful; see hand (n.) + -ful. Originally the quality that can be held in a hand; also a medieval linear measurement of four inches. Meaning "a small portion or part" is from c.1400. Figurative meaning "as much as one can manage" is from 1755.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper