Photo of author


High-handed is an idiom that has been in use in English since the 1630s. We will examine the definition of the expression high-handed, its etymology and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

The term high-handed is an adjective that describes an action which is accomplished in a presumptuous, imperious manner, or a person who is haughty, or behaves with arrogance in an authoritarian, tyrannical or oppressive manner. Someone who is high-handed is considered bossy, and usually behaves in an arbitrary way without regard to anyone else’s needs or wants. Synonyms for the word high-handed that may be found in a thesaurus are autocratic, domineering, dictatorial, arrogant, overbearing. Interestingly, the term may have been translated from the French to English, in the 1600s. The idiom in French is haut la main, the English translation of which is the high hand. Haut la main is derived from an earlier French expression, avoir la haute main sur quelque chose, which means to have the upper hand, another expression that has come into use in English. Note that high-handed is a compound word, which is a word derived from two separate words used together. High-handed is a hyphenated compound word, and has been for awhile. Hyphenated compound words are midway on their journeys to become closed compound words, which are ones that do not have a space between the two, separate words. As high-handed is not an expression that is used as often as it once was, this compound word may never progress beyond being a hyphenated word.


But her potential promotion was voted down after the two male professors criticized her at a faculty meeting, saying she is “high-handed” and “presses her opinion on others,” according to her claim. (Japan Today)

“There are mixed opinions about how well the structure is working … many of cricket’s stakeholders perceive CA to be arrogant and high-handed,” the report notes. (The West Australian)

The teachers and staff in LUMHS have been holding a series of protests demanding removal of the registrar, who is accused of being high-handed, unprofessional and a retired public servant. (The Express Tribune)

Aidoko, who has fallen out of favour with his constituents on account of his dismal performance in the past 16 years he has been at the National Assembly, with greed and high-handed mannerisms, is desperate to return to the Senate with the hope of becoming the next President of the Senate, which is the bait he is selling to his constituency in seeking their support. (The Eagle)