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Heavy-handed is an idiom that is also a compound word. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom heavy-handed, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Heavy-handed means overbearing, harsh, excessive, and forceful. Heavy-handed also means clumsy, inept, awkward, or tactless. Something that is heavy-handed is accomplished without finesse. The idiom heavy-handed is a hyphenated compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. The idiom heavy-handed came into use in the 1600s to mean weary; this definition is no longer used. The term heavy-handed reemerged in the 1870s to mean overbearing or excessive. Though the term is sometimes seen as an open compound word, or a word without a hyphen, the Oxford English Dictionary spells the term with a hyphen.


Centrist congressional Democrats have also begun to express doubts about the Biden administration’s heavy-handed approach to pandemic policy as vaccines and emerging treatment options have dramatically lessened the dangers of the virus for most people. (Denver Gazette)

The autopsy report was “pretty much consistent with what we believe, which is that Mario would still be here if not for the overaggressive heavy-handed tactics of the police,” Gonzalez’s mother’s attorney, Adante Pointer, told San Francisco’s KQED News. (Huffington Post)

He told Express.co.uk: “If you see governments becoming increasingly heavy-handed, I can understand that people start to wonder, ‘Is this part of a trend? We better be careful to ensure our rights’.” (Daily Express)