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hand (something) to (someone) on a plate
To give or relinquish something to someone very easily, without him or her having to work very hard to get or achieve it. The team's defense has been atrocious today, handing a victory to their opponents on a plate. If we can get the government to subsidize our project, we'll have our yearly earnings handed to us on a plate.
Haughtily presumptuous; arrogantly or inconsiderately overbearing. The new boss is unbearably high-handed in dealing with employees. We've had just about enough of these high-handed displays of police brutality.
An insulting or negative comment disguised as praise. She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a back-handed compliment!
hand on the torch
To give something to someone else, often one's position and/or responsibilities. Because Gina is retiring, she is handing on the torch to me, and I'll take over her job as supervisor. My grandmother is unable to stand long enough to cook such a large meal, so we're making Thanksgiving dinner this year—she has handed on the torch to us.
hand (one) (one's) head
To completely destroy or devastate someone—as emphasized by the phrase's image of decapitation. I thought I was doing well in my new role, but man, did my boss hand me my head in my performance review!
catch (one) red-handed
To see, and perhaps apprehend, someone as they are doing something (often something nefarious). The phrase might have originally referred to blood on a murderer's hands. The police caught the robbers red-handed as they ransacked another house. Timmy tried to get into the cookie jar again, but I caught him red-handed.
caught in the act
Seen, and perhaps apprehended, while doing something (often something nefarious). Our security cameras caught the burglar in the act.
come away empty-handed
To return from an experience or event without having gained anything. I worked so hard to prepare for the competition, and I still came away empty-handed, thanks to another fourth-place finish. Don't come away from the dessert table empty-handed—bring me a piece of cake!
1. Unskilled or clumsy with one's hands. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. No, I'm too cack-handed to repair that delicate figurine.
2. Inept in one's personal interactions. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Tommy is so cack-handed that he'll never be able to mediate this situation.
hand over the baton
To bestow a particular responsibility or job on someone. The phrase refers to a relay race in which one runner literally passes a baton to the next runner. I have so much work to do now that my boss has retired and handed over the baton to me.
hand over the reins
To bestow a particular responsibility or job on someone. I have so much work to do now that my boss has retired and handed over the reins to me.
Overly blunt, forceful, or tactless. We need to find a way of teaching this to kids without being heavy-handed. I don't approve of their heavy-handed parenting style, but it's not for me to criticize.
1. To give something to someone who is physically lower than oneself. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "down." While you're on the stepstool, can you hand down the cake mix from the top shelf?
2. To announce a decision. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "down." When do you think the boss will hand down a decision on this issue?
3. To yield or give something to a younger person, often a relative. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "down." I always have to wear the clothes that my older sisters hand down to me.
1. verb To distribute something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "out." Volunteers will come around and hand out pamphlets before the lecture.
2. verb To provide or share something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "out." When do you think the boss will hand out a decision on this issue?
3. noun A paper or papers that are to be distributed to a group. In this usage, the phrase is usually hyphenated and made plural. Volunteers will come around with hand-outs before the lecture begin.
4. noun Something given as aid to a person in need. In this usage, the phrase is usually hyphenated and made plural. Ever since I lost my job, I've had to rely on hand-outs from the government.
1. To give or yield someone or something. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "over." I still have a hard time handing the baby over to the nanny when I leave for work in the morning. When you retire, you'll have to hand over all of your responsibilities to someone else, you know.
2. To give someone into someone else's authority or jurisdiction. A noun or pronoun can be used between "hand" and "over." We can't harbor a criminal—we need to hand him over to the authorities.
backhanded complimentand left-handed compliment
an unintended or ambiguous compliment. Backhanded compliments are the only kind he ever gives! And I think his left-handed compliments are all given by accident, too!
catch someone red-handedand catch someone flat-footed
to catch a person in the act of doing something wrong. (See also caught red-handed.) Tom was stealing the car when the police drove by and caught him red-handed. Mary tried to cash a forged check at the bank, and the teller caught her red-handed.
caught in the actand caught red-handed
Fig. seen doing something illegal or private. (See also catch someone in the act (of doing something) and catch someone red-handed.) Tom was caught in the act and cannot deny what he did. Many car thieves are caught red-handed.
come away empty-handed
to return without anything. All right, go gambling. Don't come away empty-handed, though. Go to the bank and ask for the loan again. This time don't come away empty-handed.
go away empty-handed
Fig. to depart with nothing. I hate for you to go away empty-handed, but I cannot afford to contribute any money. They came hoping for some food, but they had to go away empty-handed.
See also: away
hand someone or something over (to someone or something)
to deliver someone or something to someone or a group; to relinquish someone or something to someone or a group. The kidnappers handed the child over to the go-between. All right, hand over the hostage!
hand something down(to someone)
1. Lit. to pass something to a person on a lower level. Hand this wrench down to the man under the sink. Please hand down this wrench.
2. Fig. to give something to a younger person. (Either at death or during life.) John handed his old shirts down to his younger brother. I hope my uncle will hand down his golf clubs to me when he dies.
3. Fig. to announce or deliver a (legal) verdict or indictment. The grand jury handed seven indictments down last week. The jury handed down a guilty verdict.
hand something out(to someone)
1. to give something out to someone. The judge was known for handing heavy fines out. She handed out large fines to everyone.
2. to pass something, usually papers, out to people. The teacher handed the tests out to the students. Please hand out these papers.
hand something over
to give something (to someone); to relinquish something (to someone); to turn something over (to someone). Come on, John! Hand over my wallet. Please hand this over to the guard.
pay someone a backhanded complimentand pay someone a left-handed compliment
Fig. to give someone a false compliment that is really an insult or criticism. John said that he had never seen me looking better. I think he was paying me a left-handed compliment. I'd prefer that someone insulted me directly. I hate it when someone pays me a backhanded compliment—unless it's a joke.
back of one's hand
Rejection or contempt, as in Unimpressed with him, she gave the back of her hand to his suggestion. This phrase is usually the object of a verb such as give or show. [Second half of 1700s] Back of the hand similarly means "an insult" in the term back-handed compliment (see under left-handed compliment) but has a quite different meaning in know like the back of one's hand (see under know like a book).
Also, catch in the act. Apprehend someone in the course of wrongdoing, as in The boys were trying to steal a car and the police caught them red-handed, or He tried to cheat on the exam, but his teacher walked in and caught him in the act. The first term referred to blood on a murderer's hands and originally signified only that crime. Later it was extended to any offense. The variant ( catch in the act) is a translation of the Latin in flagrante delicto, part of the Roman code and long used in English law.
1. Bequeath to one's heirs, as in The silver and jewels have been handed down from generation to generation in that family . [Late 1600s]
2. Make and pronounce an official decision, especially the verdict of a court. For example, The judge wasted no time in handing down a sentence of contempt of court. [First half of 1900s] Also see hand on; hand over.
Distribute, as in The teacher handed out the test papers. [Late 1800s] For a synonym, see pass out, def. 1.
Release or relinquish to another's possession or control. For example, You may as well hand over the money, or He decided to hand the store over to his children. [c. 1800] For a synonym, see turn over, def. 5.
Also, backhanded compliment. An insult in the guise of an expression of praise. For example, She said she liked my hair, but it turned out to be a left-handed compliment when she asked how long I'd been dyeing it . This expression uses left-handed in the sense of "questionable or doubtful," a usage dating from about 1600.
catch someone red-handed
COMMON If you catch someone red-handed, you see or find them while they are doing something illegal or wrong. The burglar was on the roof and was caught red-handed by the police. They all pleaded guilty to conspiring to import drugs after being caught red-handed by customs officers. Note: The reference here is to a guilty person whose hands are covered in blood.
left-handed complimenta remark that is superficially complimentary but contains a strong element of adverse criticism.
hand on (or pass) the torchpass on a tradition, especially one of learning or enlightenment.
The image here is that of the runners in a relay passing on the torch to each other, as was the custom in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The tradition of the torch relay is preserved as a prelude to the modern Olympics, with a team of runners carrying the Olympic torch vast distances across various countries until the site of the Games is reached.
catch somebody red-ˈhandedfind somebody while they are doing something wrong, committing a crime, etc: The thief was caught red-handed as she was emptying the till.This originally referred to catching a person with blood still on their hands after killing somebody.
1. To pass something down from a higher level to a lower one: Please hand that vase down to me while you're up there. The worker on the scaffold handed down the paint can to the assistant.
2. To pass something on to someone, especially a younger relative: My older brother hands all his old clothes down to me. My aunt handed down her necklaces to me. The house has been handed down from generation to generation.
3. To make and pronounce an official decision, especially a court verdict: The jury handed down the verdict. The court handed a decision down yesterday.
1. To distribute something freely; disseminate something: He handed out flyers in the street all morning. I gave the flyers to the volunteer and told her to hand them out quickly.
2. To administer or mete something: It seemed like the jury handed out an arbitrary verdict. The judge is known for handing tough sentences out to juvenile offenders.
1. To give something to someone: Hand over all your money! I handed my keys over to the valet.
2. To release or relinquish authority or responsibility to someone or something: The president handed over power to the militants. The king handed the throne over to his successor.
3. To pass someone into the authority of another: The sheriff handed over the suspects to the FBI. The state police handed the escaped prisoner over to the federal authorities.
mod. lacking dexterity; clumsy. If I wasn’t so ham-handed, I could probably fix the thing myself.
mod. tactless; forceful; unfair. Paul is a little heavy-handed at times, but mostly he’s reasonable.
left-handed monkey wrench
n. a nonexistent tool. (see also sky hook.) Hand me the left-handed monkey wrench, huh?