mano a mano

[Spanish mah-naw ah mah-naw; English mah-noh uh mah-noh]

noun, plural ma·nos a ma·nos [Spanish mah-naws ah mah-naws; English mah-noh uh mah-nohz, mah-nohz uh mah-nohz] /Spanish ˈmɑ nɔs ɑ ˈmɑ nɔs; English ˈmɑ noʊ ə ˈmɑ noʊz, ˈmɑ noʊz ə ˈmɑ noʊz/ for 1, 2.

(italics) Spanish. a corrida in which two matadors alternate in fighting two or three bulls each.
a direct confrontation or conflict; head-on competition; duel.


being or resembling such a confrontation: a mano a mano struggle in the courtroom between two superb criminal lawyers.


in direct competition or rivalry: a brash newcomer in tennis taking on the reigning champion mano a mano.

Origin of mano a mano

< Spanish: on an equal footing, without advantage (to either of two contestants); literally, hand to hand Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mano a mano

Contemporary Examples of mano a mano

  • CNN wants emotions, theatrics, the stamping of feet, mano-a-mano anger, and outrage contests.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The President Vs. the Press

    Eric Alterman

    March 25, 2009

  • “These mano-a-mano things always appeal to sports fans,” says Don Ohlmeyer, the former president of NBC Sports.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Game That Turned March Mad

    Seth Davis

    March 17, 2009

Word Origin and History for mano a mano

1970s, Spanish, literally "hand-to-hand."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper