Persons employed in a factory. We say so many head of cattle: horse-dealers count noses. Races are won by the nose, and factory work by the hand, but cattle have the place of honour.
ALL. It is believed on all hands. It is generally (or universally) believed.
CHANGE. To change hands. To pass from a possessor to someone else.
CLEAN. He has clean hands. In French, “It a les mains nettes. ”' That is, he is incorruptible, or he has never taken a bribe.
FULL. My hands are full. I am fully occupied; I have as much work to do as I can manage. A “handful” has the plural “handfuls,” as “two handfuls,” same as “two barrow-loads,” “two cart-loads,” etc.
GOOD. I have it from very good hands. I have received my information on good authority.
LAY. To lay hands on. To apprehend; to lay hold of. (See No. v.)
“Lay hands on the villain.”
LONG. Kings have long hands. In French, “Les rois ont les mains longues. ”' That is, it is hard to escape from the vengeance of a king, for his hands or agents extend over the whole of his kingdom.
SHAKE. To shake hands. To salute by giving a hand received into your own a shake.
SHOP “Hands, ”' etc. Men and women employed in a shop.
TAKE OFF. To take off one's hands. To relieve one of something troublesome, as “Will no one take this [task] off my hands?”
WASH. To wash one's hands of a thing. In French, “Se lever les mains d'une chose” ' or “Je m'en lave les mains. ' I will have nothing to do with it; I will abandon it entirely. The allusion is to Pilate's washing his hands at the trial of Jesus.”
“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying. I am innocent of the blood of this just person see ye to it.” —Matt. xxvii. 24.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894