One hand washes the other

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One hand washes the other is a proverb with roots in ancient times. We will examine the meaning of the proverb one hand washes the other, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

One hand washes the other describes a transaction in which two people help each other, two people work toward the same goal, or two people exchange favors. The proverb one hand washes the other refers to the fact that when someone washes his hands, each hand rubs the other to clean it, but in the process, each hand also becomes clean. The expression one hand washes the other came into the English language at the turn of the seventeenth century from the German, from a translation of Joannes Ferrarius’ work, Touchynge the Good Orderynge of a Common Weale. The origin of the expression one hand washes the other has been traced to a work ascribed to Seneca the Younger, the Pumpkinification of Claudius, which uses the phrase: “Manus manam lavat,” which translates to hand washes hand.


“One hand washes the other, but one hand rewards the other, too,” Townsend said. (Valley News)

“And what does Walmart do if people don’t have the money to spend?” she said, adding that “one hand washes the other, and everyone has to be good with each other until this is over with.” (Fall River Herald News)

“It’s sort of one hand washes the other here, where the police are unable to come in and beat down the protesters in this way sometimes, and so the far right, which absolutely supports the police, does it for them.” (Guardian)