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Word of the Day
Sunday, January 01, 2017

Definitions for handsel

  1. a gift or token for good luck or as an expression of good wishes, as at the beginning of the new year or when entering upon a new situation or enterprise.
  2. a first installment of payment.
  3. the initial experience of anything; first encounter with or use of something taken as a token of what will follow; foretaste.

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Citations for handsel
A handsel is a gift made to celebrate a new beginning, as a coin might be placed in the pocket of a freshly tailored coat. Brian Stableford, "Chanterelle," Black Heart, Ivory Bones, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, 2000
... I hae brought a five-pound note as handsel for good luck--this being the first traffic in legalities that I hae had on my own bottom ... John Galt, The Entail, 1823
Origin of handsel
Handsel is a confusing blend of Old English and Old Norse words. The Old English noun handselen literally means “hand-gift, handing over, manumission.” The Middle English forms hanselle, handselne, honselne “good-will gift, token of good will” were influenced by Old Norse handsal “hand-shake, hand-clasp (for sealing a purchase or a promise).” The word entered English before the 11th century.