[ handz-doun ]
/ ˈhændzˈdaʊn /
Save This Word!

easy: a hands-down victory.
certain: a book destined to be a hands-down bestseller.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of hands-down

First recorded in 1865–70
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does hands-down mean?

Hands-down describes something that is easy, as in Our team had a hands-down win, not even breaking a sweat.

Hands-down also describes something that is guaranteed, as in Hands-down, that was the hardest test so far this year! 

Example: Our home team would win against yours hands-down.

Where does hands-down come from?

The first records of the term hands-down are from around 1865. It combines the words hands and down. Hands-down was originally used in horse racing, in which the jockey of a horse in the lead by a wide margin may drop their reins and hold their hands at their sides.

Hands-down is normally used when a person believes strongly that someone or something will succeed beyond a reasonable doubt. Sports fans who believe their teams cannot lose often use it. It’s also used as a synonym for undeniably when referencing the quality of something, as in This is hands-down the best song in this album. 

While hands-down might be reserved for cases when something is extremely likely or undeniable, it is often used to show enthusiastic belief instead.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to hands-down?

  • hands down (alternative spelling)

What are some synonyms for hands-down?

What are some words that share a root or word element with hands-down

What are some words that often get used in discussing hands-down?

How is hands-down used in real life?

Hands-down is often used in discussions about the quality of two things when one is clearly superior to the other.



Try using hands-down!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for hands-down?

A. guaranteed
B. uncertain
C. definite
D. wholly

How to use hands-down in a sentence

Other Idioms and Phrases with hands-down

hands down


Also, in a breeze; in a walk. Easily, without effort, as in She won the election hands down, or They won in a breeze, 10–0, or The top players get through the first rounds of the tournament in a walk. All of these expressions originated in sports. Hands down, dating from the mid-1800s, comes from horse racing, where jockeys drop their hands downward and relax their hold when they are sure to win. In a breeze, first recorded in a baseball magazine in 1910, alludes to the rapid and easy passage of moving air; in a walk, also from baseball, alludes to taking a base on balls, that is, reaching first base without having hit a pitched ball because of the pitcher's mistakes.


Unquestionably, without a doubt, as in Hands down, it was the best thing I've ever done.

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