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by the handful

in amounts equal to a handful; in quantity. Billy is eating candy by the handful. People began leaving by the handful at midnight.
See also: handful

*a handful

Fig. someone, often a child, who is difficult to deal with. (*Typically: be ~ become ~.) Bobby can be a real handful when he needs a nap.
See also: handful


n. a difficult thing or person. Little Jimmy is a handful.
References in classic literature ?
Beyond were a handful of guards, laughing and talking over one of their incomprehensible Barsoomian games.
We are a handful of private citizens of America, traveling simply for recreation,--and unostentatiously, as becomes our unofficial state--and therefore, we have no excuse to tender for presenting ourselves before your Majesty--"
If the woman would only leave her work for an instant he could drop down, gather up a handful, and be back in the tree again before she drew three breaths.
The green men, a handful of them, had already reached the Thuria's deck, as Carthoris glanced in the direction the Lotharian had indicated.
This time Tarzan felt no doubt they would enter the village and complete the work that a handful of determined white men would have carried to a successful conclusion at the first attempt.
Dipping into his tobacco pocket, he thrust a loose handful of sticks into the ancient's hand and shoved the canoe adrift with no thought of how its helpless occupant would ever reach shore.
Into this pouch he put a handful of the new playthings, thinking to polish them at his leisure; then he replaced the box beneath the bed, and finding nothing more to amuse him, left the cabin and started back in the direction of the tribe.
Just as Pinocchio stretched out his hand to take a handful of them, he was awakened by three loud knocks at the door.
Then, when our ammunition was gone and the Klondiker, still somewhat sober, began to babble again of Milly, Kraft whispered into his ear such a polite, barbed insult relating to people who were miserly with their funds, that the miner crashed down handful after handful of silver and notes, calling for all the fluids in the world to drown the imputation.
Thus spake the conscientious one; but Zarathustra, who had just come back into his cave and had heard and divined the last discourse, threw a handful of roses to the conscientious one, and laughed on account of his "truths.
A strange name wakes up memories; the printed words scent the smoky atmosphere of to-day faintly, with the subtle and penetrating perfume as of land breezes breathing through the starlight of bygone nights; a signal fire gleams like a jewel on the high brow of a sombre cliff; great trees, the advanced sentries of immense forests, stand watchful and still over sleeping stretches of open water; a line of white surf thunders on an empty beach, the shallow water foams on the reefs; and green islets scattered through the calm of noonday lie upon the level of a polished sea, like a handful of emeralds on a buckler of steel.
It was also my opportunity; and it would be vain to discourse about what I made of it in a handful of pages, since the pages themselves are here, between the covers of this volume, to speak for themselves.
How lovely she used to look with the morning sun turning her hair to golden mist, and dancing in the blue deeps of her eyes; and once when by chance she had forgotten to fasten her gown, I caught glimpses of a bosom that was like two happy handfuls of wonderful white cherries .
In the first, blazed piles of golden coin; in the second, were ranged bars of unpolished gold, which possessed nothing attractive save their value; in the third, Edmond grasped handfuls of diamonds, pearls, and rubies, which, as they fell on one another, sounded like hail against glass.
One would think that this was enough for one day, but Mynheer Boxtel did not seem to think so, as, in addition to having his clothes torn, his back bruised, and his hands scratched, he inflicted upon himself the further punishment of tearing out his hair by handfuls, as an offering to that goddess of envy who, as mythology teaches us, wears a head-dress of serpents.