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does anyone know the origin of the phrase "Lend a hand"? I'm working on a paper about phrases and idioms and can't seem to find any history about it.

  • Unfortunately I can't find a Youtube of the classic "give me a hand" scene from Get Smart. – Hot Licks Jun 27 at 16:56
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    Using lend instead of give has been part of English since the year dot (I doubt Shakespeare's Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears was linguistically groundbreaking). So you might as well ask who first used Give me a hand to mean Help me. Or who first thought to call their female helper a handmaiden. – FumbleFingers Jun 27 at 17:08
  • It could be literal when someone has fallen, needs rescuing, is stuck, can't lift something, etc. and needs physical help from your hand. In fact, people are often known as hands, for example the crew on a ship. A factory might be "short-handed" due to sickness. – Weather Vane Jun 27 at 17:44
  • When you give someone something it is a permanent transaction and to "give your hand" to someone is to marry them. When you lend something to someone it is a temporary transaction so when you "lend someone a hand" you are giving them the use of your hand (and the rest of your body and mind to which the hand is attached) on a temporary basis, usually until a specific task has been completed. – BoldBen Jun 27 at 23:15
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lend a hand OED

e. To afford the use or support of (a part of the body); esp. in to lend a hand (or a helping hand)), to render assistance, assist, help.

The OED cites early usage here:

1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes The retainer doth some seruice, that now and then..lendes a hande ouer a stile.

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