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The meaning and origin of the expression: Win hands down

Win hands down

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Win hands down'?

Win easily, with little effort.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Win hands down'?

Many phrases have originated as jargon in the world of sport, including several from

boxing. The memory of Muhammad Ali dancing round the ring with his hands at his side and going on the win the bout might encourage us to think that that is the origin of this one. Not quite, although it does come from sport - horse racing.

Win hands downJockeys need to keep a tight rein in order to encourage their horse to run. Anyone who is well in the lead can afford to slacken off by dropping their hands and loosening the reins - hence winning 'hands down'. This is recorded from the mid 19th century; for example, 'Pips' Lyrics & Lays, 1867:

"There were good horses in those days, as he can well recall, But Barker upon Elepoo, hands down, shot by them all."

It began to be used in a figurative sense, to denote an easy win in other contexts, from the early 20th century.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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