Definition of hansel in English:


(also handsel)


  • 1A gift given for good luck at the beginning of the year or to mark an acquisition or the start of an enterprise.

    • ‘This gathering of songs from the Angus-bred singer and fret player from Scots band Malinky is more an assertion of personal identity than a hansel to the glens, Mearns and tenacious coastal townships of his youth.’
    • ‘Traditionally presents or handsels were given by employers to their staff; in some areas this was done on January 12.’
    • ‘We donated handsels and small gifts to welfare children and promoted an end-of-the-year fund-raising campaign to support welfare organizations.’
    • ‘The handsel was popular as a new year's gift from the 14th to 19th centuries, but it also had a broader application to mark any new situation.’
    • ‘The tradition of giving alms or handsels around the Christmas period continued with the celebration of Handsel Monday on the first Monday after New Year.’
    • ‘They come on the New Year's Eve, give handsels to children and arrange the party.’
    1. 1.1 The first installment of a payment.


  • 1Give a hansel to.

    • ‘2006 was hanselled with the reappearance of two old friends: the Skye Bridge and the Scottish Parliament construction project.’
    • ‘Incidentally, the practice of putting some coins in a purse or wallet you buy for someone is called hanselling.’
    • ‘The younger men had "hanselled" their good bargain overwell, and were laughing and talking freely, as they walked up the white road from the haven.’
    1. 1.1 Inaugurate (something), especially by being the first to try it.
      ‘a floodlit fixture to officially hansel the completed stadium’
      • ‘On 17th May, 1780, Glasgow (which had been a creek under Port-Glasgow) became a Port of Entry, and hanselled her new privilege by passing sixty pipes of French brandy, ex ‘Triton,’ Thomas Martindale master.’
      • ‘Iain is delighted to have the honour of hanseling the new facilities, and believes it will be an important resource for the island.’
      • ‘In 1961 the new Hampden floodlights were hanselled by a challenge match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers, and in return for the hospitality shown to them the Germans offered to arrange a tour for Queen's, and the summer of 1962 saw two games on the continent, although both were lost, a single goal enough for Hesse to see off Queen's, while Singen won by the odd goal in seven.’
      • ‘The beginning is hanseled, we shall wait for the further surprises and victories.’
      • ‘In Norfolk we hear of hanselling a coat - i.e. wearing it for the first time.’
      • ‘The Bill Struth Main Stand was duly hanselled by Rangers’ biggest win of the season, but despite the handsome scoreline this was a lethargic performance by Paul Le Guen's side.’
      • ‘He had scarcely however given directions for its construction when he fell ill of a fever, and was very near enjoying the honour of hanselling the new cemetery himself.’
      • ‘His first chance comes on Tuesday when he hansels the new parliament with a speech outlining the Executive's legislative plans.’
      • ‘There were 2632 days between the Accies last game in May 1994 at the old Douglas Park in Hamilton and yesterday's hanseling of the club's new Ballast Stadium with a match against a Sunderland XI.’
      open, open officially, declare open
      View synonyms


Middle English (denoting luck): apparently related to late Old English handselen ‘giving into a person's hands’, and Old Norse handsal ‘giving of the hand to seal a promise’, from hand + an element related to sell; the notion of ‘luck’, however, is not present in these words.