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Hand over fist

Hand over fist is a term that comes from the nautical world. It is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term hand over fist, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Hand over fist means to do something very quickly, at a rapid pace. The term hand over fist almost exclusively is used when referring to the accumulation of money. The term comes from pulling in the rope of a ship. The original phrase was hand over hand, and referred to doing something at a steady pace. In the 1800s this phrase evolved into hand over fist, referring to one’s “fist” holding onto the rope as the other hand flew forward to grab the rope in another position. By the 1900s the meaning of the term hand over fist changed from a steady pace to a rapid pace, and was applied almost exclusively to the act of acquiring money. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the term without hyphens, except when used as an adjective before a noun.


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Examples

“Everyone is making money hand over fist, yet they still don’t have the system in place to keep the promises they made to us,” he said. (The Dallas Morning News)

“You can undercharge your competition and still make money hand-over-fist by not paying the tax because tobacco is taxed a great deal,” said Fred Fink, the criminal division chief in the Washington County Attorney’s Office. (The River Falls Journal)

Donations have been coming in hand over fist for Nicholas Naumann, the Christ the King High School freshman who was struck by a car near the Middle Village campus last week. (The Queens Chronicle)

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