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HAND OVER FIST ORIGIN

Wednesday January 26th, 2011
HAND OVER FIST

Usually used in reference to making money quickly the term ‘hand over fist’ stems from the original phrase ‘hand over hand’ which is clearly associated with pulling or climbing ropes. The term dates back to at least the start of 18th century and an early citation can be found in the Royal Society’s ‘Philosophical Transactions’ 1736: “A lusty young Man attempted to go down (hand over hand, as the Workmen call it) by means of a single Rope.”

However ‘hand over fist’ seems to have been used as a more figurative version with allusions to speed as in William Glascock’s ‘The naval sketchbook’ 1825: “The French ... weathered our wake, coming up with us, ‘hand over fist’, in three divisions.” Probably the earliest citation to use the term in reference to making a fast buck can be found in Seba Smith’s ‘The Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing’ 1833:'They... clawed the money off of his table, hand over fist.'
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