1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hand

HAND (a word common to Teutonic languages; cf. Ger. Hand, Goth. handus), the terminal part of the human arm from below the wrist, and consisting of the fingers and the palm. The word is also used of the prehensile termination of the limbs in certain other animals (see Anatomy: Superficial and artistic; Skeleton: Appendicular, and such articles as Muscular System and Nervous System). There are many transferred applications of “hand,” both as a substantive and in various adverbial phrases. The following may be mentioned: charge or authority, agency, source, chiefly in such expressions as “in the hands of,” “by hand,” “at first hand.” From the position of the hands at the side of the body, the word means “direction,” e.g., on the right, left hand, cf. “at hand.” The hand as given in betrothal or marriage has been from early times the symbol of marriage as it also is of oaths. Other applications are to labourers engaged in manual occupations, the members of the crew of a ship, to a person who has some special skill, as in the phrase, “old parliamentary hand,” and to the pointers of a clock or watch and to the number of cards dealt to each player in a card game. As a measure of length the term “hand” is now only used in the measurement of horses, it is equal to 4 in. The name “hand of glory,” is given to a hand cut from the corpse of a hanged criminal, dried in smoke, and used as a charm or talisman, for the finding of treasures, &c. The expression is the translation of the Fr. main de gloire, a corruption of the O. Fr. mandegloire, mandegoire, i.e. mandragore, mandragora, the mandrake, to the root of which many magical properties are attributed.