Old Hand, an

Meaning of Idiom ‘Old Hand’

An old hand is a person who is very experienced at doing at a particular thing. 1Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.,3Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.

Usage

The preposition ‘at’ is often, but not always added to this idiom such as in the example “He’s an old hand at woodcarving.” The word ‘with’ can also be used as in the second example below. Both can be omitted as in the third example.

Examples Of Use

“I don’t need a contractor. My father is an old hand at any kind of construction.”

“Casey is an old hand with engines. He’ll get your car running again.”

“Have you ever used this program,” asked Chris. “Yep. I’m an old hand,” said Ted.

Origin

Used since at least the 1840’s. This idiom alludes to doing things with one’s hands. Hand, in this idiom is used in the sense of a person’s handiwork, skill, or artistic work, but also in the sense of someone who engages in manual labor. Therefore, an old hand is one who has been doing something for a long time, thus implying they have aquire proficiency and skill.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
3. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.