Definition of handful in English:



  • 1A quantity that fills the hand.

    ‘a small handful of fresh coriander’
    • ‘Like a river, I want to bend down, reach through that plate glass window and grab handfuls of this flood of color and light and life to show you.’
    • ‘She flung the whole handful through the doorway and continued her spell.’
    • ‘Roasted by sun and snow, men and women drive goats up and down dale, harvest tobacco with the most rudimentary equipment, make bricks from natural clay which dry in the sun, or try selling handfuls of raspberries or plums.’
    • ‘Residential sports schools across East Germany daily gave handfuls of pills to the children in their charge as well as drinks and injections, all of which were billed as vitamins and minerals.’
    • ‘When the wine is heated to the point where air bubbles are rising to the top (it must not boil), stir and add the cheese by handfuls, each time allowing the cheese to dissolve before adding the next bunch.’
    • ‘I dragged the trough before them and filled it with the last few handfuls of barley.’
    • ‘When her pail is full she helps me fill my pail, and we both eat handfuls of blueberries, staining our shirts and skirts and skin.’
    • ‘Two robbers claiming to be armed with knives robbed a jewellery store stealing handfuls of expensive chains and rings.’
    • ‘I fumbled the pitcher before managing to fill the bowl, then splashed handfuls onto my face.’
    • ‘She buys bags of nuts for them and throws them out in great handfuls that arc gracefully through the air and drop on the grass with the patter of tiny nut projectiles.’
    • ‘I was shopping in a health food store that had open bins and this man was grabbing handfuls of nuts in his open hands and eating them before going to the counter to pay for them.’
    • ‘It consisted of about two handfuls of greens grown in the garden (beet leaves and leftover leaf beet seedlings), together with 3 small peppers from my pepper plant, a carrot and an onion.’
    • ‘‘I saw one of the lads climb in through the pub's top window and come out with handfuls of bags,’ says Andy.’
    • ‘But don't rush out and buy handfuls of confetti to fling into Pitt and Jolie's faces just yet - Brad Pitt's publicist has completely denied the story.’
    • ‘A boy and his parents came into the toyshop, and not only did they ignore all the other toys but they came right up to the balloon shelf, looked and satisfied they bought handfuls of balloons, including the Little Red Balloon.’
    • ‘Expectant youngsters caught handfuls of kitchels at the Harwich's historic mayor-making ceremony.’
    • ‘The lazy and eerie rustle of wind through trees was all we could hear as we gathered handfuls of rotting needles.’
    • ‘The slot machines are surrounded by armies of meter men and women with plastic containers, either pulling handfuls of coins out of or putting fistfuls of coins into the blinking and barking machines.’
    • ‘The 20-year-old star had to opt for a close-cropped style when her hair started falling out in horrifying handfuls, but she is desperate to have flowing long hair once again..’
    • ‘Take out a couple of the bottles, and fill the empty spots with bouquets of flowers and handfuls of candy.’
    a small number, a small amount, a small quantity, a sprinkling, a smattering, a scattering, a trickle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A small number or amount.
      ‘only a handful of people were in the pub’
      • ‘Only a handful of customers are inside the scattering of pubs in the Square.’
      • ‘They were replaced by a distant silver moon and a handful of scattered shiny stars.’
      • ‘When the bill originally sailed through Congress, only a small handful of Members had been permitted to read it.’
      • ‘Of the 72 people who have been through his doors only a handful have given up.’
      • ‘All you need is a handful of youths, small arms and some explosives.’
      • ‘The plan is simple: with only a few attacks (they probably only have a few handfuls of men) they generate news, this news in turn generates comment, the comment stirs up the blogosphere.’
      • ‘This is among the handful of critical comments Lynch utters in the course of the book.’
      • ‘When the fish melt away, introduce a handful of maggots and the same amount of hemp on to the clear patch.’
      • ‘A strut, a bit of attitude, a handful of sexy dance moves and the pop world is yours.’
      • ‘Do you think that it's healthy for our Democracy that because of gerrymandering, only handfuls of House races are now actually competitive races?’
      • ‘By February, 900 miners had abandoned the strike; at the pit gates, handfuls of pickets made desultory shouts of ‘scab’ as the trickle of working miners became a flood.’
      • ‘Among the group's upmarket names, Bentley is probably cost-effective, but Lamborghini and Bugatti sell only in handfuls and must be a huge drain on resources.’
      • ‘They know the elusive swing voters scattered in a handful of key states want moderation, not aggression.’
      • ‘Among these networks were more than a handful of sports speciality channels.’
      • ‘By now you can fairly expect that the Doubting Thomases left will be just a handful.’
      • ‘All sandwiches come with a handful of nachos and some tasty homemade salsa.’
      • ‘The tiny handful of ranch and farm locals tried to fill me in on who some of the folks were.’
      • ‘Despite having a fair amount of interest only a handful of people took the plunge.’
      • ‘She delivers only a handful of lines but a truckload of kicks and punches.’
      • ‘There always seem to be a handful of co-writes with his wife on every release.’
      a small number, a small amount, a small quantity, a sprinkling, a smattering, a scattering, a trickle
      few, one or two, not many, a small number
      View synonyms
  • 2informal A person or group that is very difficult to deal with or control.

    ‘the kids could be such a handful’
    • ‘He is a handful alright, they have a legitimate big man again.’
    • ‘He is a good fighter and was a rough handful, but Harry dealt with him very well.’
    • ‘He is a handful right now, into everything, chewing on anything he can find.’
    • ‘The hound has to be a real character who tends to be bossy and, maybe, has become too much of a handful for his owners to deal with.’
    • ‘He was learning she could be quite a handful, challenging him in ways he did not expect.’
    nuisance, problem, bother, irritant, source of annoyance, thorn in someone's flesh, thorn in someone's side, bugbear
    View synonyms