Hand Over Fist—Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

What does hand over fist mean? No, it’s not a new workout regime or a fancy hand-shake technique. This interesting English idiom has nothing to do with physical exercise, but it does have a lot to do with gain and growth. So, let’s unravel this phrase and delve into its meaning, origin, and usage so you’ll never wonder if you’re using it correctly.

Hand Over Fist Meaning Explained

Hand Over Fist Idiom Origin Meaning

The saying usually applies to money; to make money hand over fist means to gain it rapidly and in large quantities. It’s like being a bookworm in a bookstore with an unlimited budget or striking oil in your backyard. Basically, you’re not just making money but raking it in faster than a speeding bullet.

I once went to a sci-fi convention as a special guest and brought one of my fantasy books to sign for people. It was such a hit that people lined up to get it, and I felt like I couldn’t sign my name and take the money quickly! It was a great weekend, and I definitely made money hand over fist, metaphorically and literally.

Does It Need Hyphens?

Yes and no. If you’re using the phrase as an adjective before a noun, then use hyphens—so it’s hand-over-fist. Otherwise, there’s no need for hyphens in this adverbial expression.

Hand Over Fist Origin and Etymology

The phrase hand over fist originates from a nautical history during the 1800s. Picture sailors hauling in ropes: one hand over the other, steadily and relentlessly.

Eventually, the phrase was taken into the realm of English idioms to refer to any continuous and speedy accumulation of something, usually money, and is now a popular adverbial phrase we use.

Is Hand Over Foot a Saying?

Though it sounds similar, hand over foot isn’t a recognized idiom. So, if you’re attempting to describe rapid gain or progress, stick with hand over fist. Hand over foot could be used humorously to describe the opposite. If something wasn’t working or sales were slow, you could say you’re making money hand over foot.

Are There Synonyms for Hand Over Fist?

Of course! There are always other ways to express the idea of making money hand over fist. Here are some alternatives off the top of my head.

  1. Raking it in
  2. Making a killing
  3. Earning a pretty penny
  4. Rolling in dough
  5. Making money like water

Hand Over Fist Examples in a Sentence

Hand Over Fist Idiom Origin Meaning 1

Ready to start using hand over fist in your daily conversations? Here are a few samples to get the ball rolling.

  • After launching their innovative new sleep app, the start-up began making money hand over fist.
  • The popular seafood restaurant was raking in profits hand over fist with delicious dishes and fresh lobster on the menu.
  • With Darren’s successful investments, he’s earning money hand over fist daily without lifting a finger.
  • Candace’s bestselling Fantasy book had her making royalties hand over fist.
  • Their new business venture took off, and they began making money hand over fist by selling homemade burgers.

Bottom Line

I hope my tips and quick guide were enough to explain the meaning of hand over fist. With the list of synonyms and sentence examples, you should have a decent grasp of the expression. So, go forth and apply it!

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: