Where does the phrase “hand over fist” come from and What does it mean?

At first, the phrase “hand over fist” was a nautical expression with a very lateral meaning , advancing the hands alternately, as in climbing a rope, hoisting a sail, or the like.

Then, still nautical, it acquired a figurative sense, advancing continuously, as if by pulling something toward one by a rope. Thus, in overtaking another vessel rapidly, one spoke of coming up with it “hand over hand.”

In America, early in the nineteenth century, this second meaning acquired a further extension, hauling in rapidly, as if by reeling in a fish; and, Americans being flippant, the second “hand” became “fist,” so that now we say of a friend that he is making money “hand over fist” when his fortunes are in the ascendency.

where does the phrase hand over fist come from and what does it mean
About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for zippyfacts.com. Born in New York, she loves interesting random facts from all over the world.