What's the difference between 'single-hand' and 'single-handed'? And why? Is meaning of 'single-hand' a subset of 'single-handed'?

  • 2
    Single-handed is figurative and hyphenated; single hand is literal and not. Single-handed is an idiom meaning "by himself; with help from no one else". Single hand does not mean that. It's a simple combination of two words which expresses its meaning directly and literally, as in "the kitten was so tiny I could hold in in a single hand". – Dan Bron May 7 '15 at 5:14
  • But I asked 'single-hand' and NOT 'single hand'. – Computist May 7 '15 at 6:10
  • What I was trying to tell you is there is no "single-hand" (with hyphen). There is only "single hand" (no hyphen) and "single-handed" (infrequently, but not never, spelled without the hyphen). – Dan Bron May 7 '15 at 6:12

It is called the past participle.

  • The closed-down restaurant.
  • The red-haired woman.
  • A white-tailed deer.
  • The saber-toothed tiger.
  • A painted door.
  • An unpainted door.

For example,

  • A painted bucket vs paint bucket.
  • If you love hyphens, then, painted-bucket vs paint-bucket.

The hyphen is optional. Read When to use a hyphen to coin a new word and when to omit a hyphen?.

The past participle, because the state of the object is due to a completed action.

There is difference between "red-haired woman" and "red hair woman".

  • "red-haired woman" = a woman haired with red hair.
  • "red hair woman" could mean a woman selling/throwing/giving/etc red hair, or a "red-haired woman".

Hyphens are for clarity:
Red hair woman = red-hair woman.

  • Single hand: He won the game with a single hand. It was a single-hand game.
  • I have only a single hand tonight. All other waiters, except she, have gone home for the New Year.
  • Single-handed: He single-handedly won the game with a single hand. It was a single-handed single-hand feat.

A hand is one cycle of a card game. A hand, can be used as the term for an employee or hired help.

sin·gle-hand·ed also sin·gle·han·ded (sĭng′gəl-hăn′dĭd)

  1. Working or done without help; unassisted.
  2. Intended for use with one hand.
  3. Having or using only one hand.
  4. Nautical Of, being, or restricted to a one-person sailing crew.
  • In a single-handed manner.
  • sin′gle-hand′ed·ly adv.

sin′gle-hand′ed·ness n.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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