Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Pleasing in form or appearance, especially having strong or distinguished features.
  • adjective Having stately or attractive proportions or appearance; impressive: synonym: beautiful.
  • adjective Large in amount or measure; generous or considerable.
  • adjective Marked by or requiring skill or dexterity.
  • adjective Appropriate or fitting.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To make handsome; render pleasing or attractive.
  • Easy to handle or use; handy; ready; convenient.
  • Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; pleasing in proportions and aspect; having symmetry or harmony of parts; well formed and well attired, equipped, or arrayed: as, a handsome person or face; a handsome building; a handsome display.
  • Graceful in manner; marked by propriety and ease; becoming; appropriate: as, a handsome style; a handsome delivery or address.
  • Such as to suit one's convenience or desires; ample; large; on a liberal scale: as, a handsome income or outlay.
  • Characterized by or expressive of generosity or magnanimity: as, a handsome apology; a handsome action.
  • Synonyms Pretty, Fair, etc. See beautiful.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To render handsome.
  • adjective obsolete Dexterous; skillful; handy; ready; convenient; -- applied to things as persons.
  • adjective Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; having a pleasing appearance or expression; attractive; having symmetry and dignity; comely; -- expressing more than pretty, and less than beautiful
  • adjective Suitable or fit in action; marked with propriety and ease; graceful; becoming; appropriate
  • adjective Evincing a becoming generosity or nobleness of character; liberal; generous.
  • adjective Ample; moderately large.
  • adjective [Colloq.] to act liberally.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective obsolete Dexterous; skillful; handy; ready; convenient; -- applied to things as persons.
  • adjective of a man Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; having a pleasing appearance or expression; attractive.
  • adjective of a woman Striking, impressive and elegantly proportioned, though not typically beautiful.
  • adjective Suitable or fit in action; marked with propriety and ease; graceful; becoming; appropriate.
  • adjective Evincing a becoming generosity or nobleness of character; liberal; generous.
  • adjective Ample; moderately large.
  • adjective Having a good appearance
  • verb transitive, obsolete To render handsome.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective pleasing in appearance especially by reason of conformity to ideals of form and proportion
  • adjective given or giving freely

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English handsom, handy : hand, hand (from Old English) + -som, n. suff.; see –some.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

hand +‎ -some, compare Dutch handzaam.

Examples

  • "I give it up," said I. "It's because I'm so _handsome_ -- we're _all_ handsome, you know, and

    The Martian

  • But the word handsome did not even approach the glory of Alec Aarronson.

    Rhapsody In Time

  • But the word handsome did not even approach the glory of Alec Aarronson.

    Rhapsody In Time

  • But still he is not quite a — what one calls a handsome man, nor quite

    The Old Curiosity Shop

  • I, prompted by that worst of devils, poverty, returned to the vile practice, and made the advantage of what they call a handsome face to be the relief to my necessities, and beauty be a pimp to vice.

    Moll Flanders

  • “I'm not sure about the word handsome,” Joseph said.

    Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe

  • “I'm not sure about the word handsome,” Joseph said.

    Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe

  • If I'm going to ride what he calls the handsome, Jake thought, I'd just as soon go with plenty of company.

    The Waste Lands

  • I often reflected how my lover at the Bath, struck at the hand of God, repented and abandoned me, and refused to see me any more, though he loved me to an extreme; but I, prompted by that worst of devils, poverty, returned to the vile practice, and made the advantage of what they call a handsome face to be the relief to my necessities, and beauty be a pimp to vice.

    The Fortunes And Misfortunes Of The Famous Moll Flanders

  • Do you not know that the animal, which they call a handsome and beautiful object, is so much more formidable than the Tarantula, as those insects instil something when they touch, but this creature, without even touching, but if a person only looks at it, though from a very great distance, instils something of such potency, as to drive people mad?

    The Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Comments

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  • "I vow, child, you are vastly handsome."

    Goldsmith, She Stoops, III

    January 11, 2007

  • Such a charmingly old-fashioned word.

    September 16, 2007

  • From English circa the Middle Ages, referring to a man of good hands, indicating a strong and healthy laborer. In an agrarian society, the best indication of a man's "worth" as a mate was his work ethic and acclimation to long hours in the fields. Over time the word has evolved to indicate physical attractiveness, but retains part of the original meaning: a man's excellence as a mate.

    September 17, 2007

  • And here I thought it was just a guy with some hands.

    September 18, 2007

  • Which might be just as true as my explanation. My madeupical etymologies are worth diddly.

    September 18, 2007

  • And yet they remain endlessly entertaining. :-)

    September 18, 2007