One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Chiefly Fishing. A line used or pulled by hand for some purpose; especially a fishing line used without a rod, typically attached to the side of a vessel.
2Nautical. Now chiefly in form hand line. A line attached to a hand lead, marked at regular intervals up to 20 fathoms, used for taking soundings in shallow water. Now chiefly historical.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Foreign Accounts 8 Henry V. From hand + line.
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