Definition of hansel in US English:


(also handsel)

nounPlural hansels

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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They come on the New Year's Eve, give handsels to children and arrange the party.’
    • ‘Traditionally presents or handsels were given by employers to their staff; in some areas this was done on January 12.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We donated handsels and small gifts to welfare children and promoted an end-of-the-year fund-raising campaign to support welfare organizations.’
    1. 1.1 The first installment of a payment.

verbhanseled, hanselled, hansels, hanseling, hanselling

[with object]US
  • 1Give a hansel to.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Incidentally, the practice of putting some coins in a purse or wallet you buy for someone is called hanselling.’
    • ‘2006 was hanselled with the reappearance of two old friends: the Skye Bridge and the Scottish Parliament construction project.’
    1. 1.1 Inaugurate (something), especially by being the first to try it.
      ‘a floodlit fixture to officially hansel the completed stadium’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His first chance comes on Tuesday when he hansels the new parliament with a speech outlining the Executive's legislative plans.’
      • ‘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.’
      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.