Hands Are Tied (my, someone’s)

Meaning of Idiom ‘My Hands are Tied’

When your hands are tied it means that you are prevented from doing something because some other authority prevents you from acting. This idiom can be applied to people or to organizations.

One may be unable to act because of existing rules, policies, higher-ranking officials or administrators, orders, or any other factors. The implication is that the situation is out of one’s control.

Usage

Usually, when this idiom is used, it is implied that the person whose hands are tied would like to act but the situation is out of their control. This idiom is often used in the passive voice, as indicated here, but can also be used in the active voice.

Examples Of Use

“I know you want the new job, but my hands are tied. The board has a list of candidates.”

“Mr. Powers wanted to fix the malfunctioning equipment in the factory, but his hands were tied. His other partner had a controlling interest.”

“They have back orders for the new soda, but due to a shortfall in the sugar supply, the company’s hands are tied.”

“I’m afraid I can’t give you the loan. My supervisor tied my hands on this one.”

Origin

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, this idiom was first recorded in print in 1642. It alludes figuratively to having one’s hands physically restrained because they were bound by someone else.

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