handful

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handful

Something or someone that is difficult to manage. Joan's daughter is very polite and well-behaved, but her son is a real handful, always getting into trouble. This project seemed easy at first but it has become a real handful, and I'm not sure I'm going to finish by the deadline.

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

handful

n. a difficult thing or person. Little Jimmy is a handful.
References in classic literature ?
But while he pretended to be searching for the money, the Miller gathered two great handfuls of meal.
They threw hard-earned handfuls of road-grit upon the flames, which accepted them with enthusiasm.
Denham looked after them, and made as if he were tearing handfuls of grass up by the roots from the carpet.
Again Helen laughed at her, benignantly strewing her with handfuls of the long tasselled grass, for she was so brave and so foolish.
Peter's heart was so glad that he felt he must sing all day long, just as the birds sing for joy, but, being partly human, he needed an instrument, so he made a pipe of reeds, and he used to sit by the shore of the island of an evening, practising the sough of the wind and the ripple of the water, and catching handfuls of the shine of the moon, and he put them all in his pipe and played them so beautifully that even the birds were deceived, and they would say to each other, "Was that a fish leaping in the water or was it Peter playing leaping fish on his pipe?
Finally he threw handfuls of earth at them and bits of broken twigs, and then the lions growled and bared their fangs, but none of them advanced.
Moreover," hinted the Orange agitators interspersed through the crowd, whom they hoped to manage like a sharp-edged and at the same time crushing instrument, -- "moreover, will there not, from the Buytenhof to the gate of the town, a nice little opportunity present itself to throw some handfuls of dirt, or a few stones, at this Cornelius de Witt, who not only conferred the dignity of Stadtholder on the Prince of Orange merely vi coactus, but who also intended to have him assassinated?
The war-songs and dances were more unrestrained, and, from abuse, the plantation blacks had turned to pelting their helpless foes with pieces of wood, handfuls of pebbles, and chunks of coral-rock.
We pulled hair out in handfuls, and scratched and bit and gouged.
They were already making ready their handfuls of mud to fling at her when the right moment arrived.
Sometimes, in a playful mood, old Doctor Reefy took from his pockets a handful of the paper balls and threw them at the nursery man.
At the high end the skull forms a crater to bed that part of the mass; while under the long floor of this crater -- in another cavity seldom exceeding ten inches in length and as many in depth --reposes the mere handful of this monster's brain.
If his notions of hidden treasure had been analyzed, they would have been found to consist of a handful of real dimes and a bushel of vague, splen- did, ungraspable dollars.
Its garden, too, glowed with flowers: hollyhocks had sprung up tall as trees, lilies had opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies; the sweetbriars gave out, morning and evening, their scent of spice and apples; and these fragrant treasures were all useless for most of the inmates of Lowood, except to furnish now and then a handful of herbs and blossoms to put in a coffin.
Alone and on foot, you could carry away a mere handful.