1. a part of a thing made specifically to be grasped or held by the hand.
  2. that which may be held, seized, grasped, or taken advantage of in effecting a purpose: The clue was a handle for solving the mystery.
  3. Slang.
    1. a person’s name, especially the given name.
    2. a person’s alias, nickname, or code name.
    3. a username, as on a social media website: What’s your Twitter handle?
    4. a name or term by which something is known, described, or explained.
  4. the total amount wagered on an event, series of events, or for an entire season or seasons, as at a gambling casino or in horse racing: The track handle for the day was over a million dollars.
  5. the total amount of money taken in by a business concern on one transaction, sale, event, or series of transactions, or during a specific period, especially by a theater, nightclub, sports arena, resort hotel, or the like.
  6. hand(def 27).
  7. Informal. a way of getting ahead or gaining an advantage: The manufacturer regards the new appliance as its handle on the Christmas market.

verb (used with object), han·dled, han·dling.

  1. to touch, pick up, carry, or feel with the hand or hands; use the hands on; take hold of.
  2. to manage, deal with, or be responsible for: My wife handles the household accounts. This computer handles all our billing.
  3. to use or employ, especially in a particular manner; manipulate: to handle color expertly in painting.
  4. to manage, direct, train, or control: to handle troops.
  5. to deal with (a subject, theme, argument, etc.): The poem handled the problem of instinct versus intellect.
  6. to deal with or treat in a particular way: to handle a person with tact.
  7. to deal or trade in: to handle dry goods.

verb (used without object), han·dled, han·dling.

  1. to behave or perform in a particular way when handled, directed, managed, etc.: The troops handled well. The jet was handling poorly.
  1. fly off the handle, Informal. to become very agitated or angry, especially without warning or adequate reason: I can’t imagine why he flew off the handle like that.
  2. get/have a handle on, to acquire an understanding or knowledge of: Can you get a handle on what your new boss expects?


  1. the part of a utensil, drawer, etc, designed to be held in order to move, use, or pick up the object
  2. NZ a glass beer mug with a handle
  3. slang a person’s name or title
  4. a CB radio slang name for call sign
  5. an opportunity, reason, or excuse for doing somethinghis background served as a handle for their mockery
  6. the quality, as of textiles, perceived by touching or feeling
  7. the total amount of a bet on a horse race or similar event
  8. fly off the handle informal to become suddenly extremely angry

verb (mainly tr)

  1. to pick up and hold, move, or touch with the hands
  2. to operate or employ using the handsthe boy handled the reins well
  3. to have power or control overmy wife handles my investments
  4. to manage successfullya secretary must be able to handle clients
  5. to discuss (a theme, subject, etc)
  6. to deal with or treat in a specified wayI was handled with great tact
  7. to trade or deal in (specified merchandise)
  8. (intr) to react or respond in a specified way to operation or controlthe car handles well on bends

Old English handle, formed from hand (n.) with instrumental suffix -le indicating a tool in the way thimble was formed from thumb. The slang sense of “nickname” is first recorded 1870, originally U.S., from earlier expressions about adding a handle to (one’s) name, i.e. a title such as Mister or Sir, attested from 1833. To fly off the handle (1833) is a figurative reference to an ax head (to be off the handle “be excited” is recorded from 1825, American English). To get a handle on “get control of” is first recorded 1972.


Old English handlian “to touch or move with the hands,” also “deal with, discuss;” see handle (n.). Akin to Old Norse höndla “to seize, capture,” Danish handle “to trade, deal,” German handeln “to bargain, trade.” Related: Handled; handling. Meaning “to act towards (someone) in a certain manner” (usually with hostility or roughness) is from c.1200. The commercial sense was weaker in English than in some other Germanic languages, but it emerged in American English (1888) from the notion of something passing through one’s hands, and cf. handler.

In addition to the idioms beginning with handle

  • handle to one’s name
  • handle with gloves

also see:

  • fly off the handle
  • get a fix (handle) on
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