Intermediate+ Word of the Day: handy

handy (adjective) /ˈhændi/ LISTEN

Handy is an adjective describing an object that is practical and easy to use. It may also describe anything that is close enough so you can reach, or get it easily. Lastly, it can be used for people who are very skilled at something–especially tasks involving the use of their hands.

Example sentences

  • This is a really handy blender; it prepares anything from pesto to baby food and mashed potatoes.
  • The dictionary I bought turned out to be very handy.
  • When I travel, I like to keep my ticket and passport handy.
  • Toby has asthma and always needs to keep his medication handy.
  • Being handy with tools can actually save you a lot of money because you can assemble furniture yourself.

Words often used with handy

come in handy: A common way to say that something is useful for a specific purpose. Example: “I’m bringing an umbrella to the tennis match; I know it will come in handy if it starts raining.”

In pop culture

Even if handymen are more common, handywomen do exist. Popular Australian soap opera Neighbours has a character who is a handywoman. You can see her at work on a building site in this clip from the show:


Handy, meaning ‘skilled with the hands,’ dates back to around the year 1300, and was first recorded in surnames. It is formed by the noun hand and the suffix –y (which forms adjectives). Hand can be traced back to before the year 900, as the Old English hond or hand, from the Proto-Germanic handuz, but its origin before then is uncertain. It is related to the Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch and German hand, and the Old Norse hönd, and Gothic handus, all of which mean ‘hand.’ The sense ‘convenient or accessible’ was first used in the mid-17th century.

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