One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1An act of assistance provided by one person to another to help him or her climb on to something, or move to a higher place or a standing position, by using a hand or hands to pull up and support his or her weight. Frequently in "to give (a person) a hand up".
2Figurative. An act of assistance or aid (typically in the form of practical advice or support) given to a person or persons in order to help them improve their circumstances; a helping hand.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Bentley's Miscellany. From hand + up.
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