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

  • n. A coil or loop.
  • n. Nautical A ring on a stay attached to the head of a jib or staysail.
  • n. A looped bundle, as of yarn.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A coil or loop of something, especially twine, yarn, or rope
  • n. A ring or shackle that secures a staysail to its stay and allows the sail to glide smoothly up and down.
  • n. doubt, difficulty
  • n. mess, tangle
  • v. To form into hanks.
  • v. To fasten with a rope, as a gate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A parcel consisting of two or more skeins of yarn or thread tied together.
  • n. A rope or withe for fastening a gate.
  • n. Hold; influence.
  • n. A ring or eye of rope, wood, or iron, attached to the edge of a sail and running on a stay.
  • n. A throw in which a wrestler turns his left side to his opponent, twines his left leg about his opponent's right leg from the inside, and throws him backward.
  • transitive v. To fasten with a rope, as a gate.
  • transitive v. To form into hanks.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To fasten by means of a rope or cord: draw or compress tightly.
  • [⟨ hank, n.] To form into hanks, as yarn.
  • To hang.
  • Same as hanker.
  • n. A skein or coil of yarn or thread; more particularly, a definite length of yarn, thread, silk, or the like bound up in one or more skeins. A hank of cotton yarn is 840 yards; a hank of linen yarn is 3,000 yards.
  • n. A string; a tie; a clasp; a hold; a collar, chain, ring, or other means of fastening.
  • n. Specifically Nautical, a ring of wood or iron (formerly of rope) fastened round a fore-and-aft stay, and having the head of a jib or stay-sail seized to it. Iron hanks are used on wire stays, and wooden ones on rope stays.
  • n. A withy or rope for fastening a gate.
  • n. A handle.
  • n. A habit or practice.

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

  • n. a coil of rope or wool or yarn


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

Middle English, from Old Norse hönk.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse hǫnk hank; akin to Old English hangian to hang First Known Use: 14th century



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  • Excellent. Another word for my handkerchiefs list.

    June 29, 2012

  • Apparently short for handkerchief or hankie. My first encounter with this word was on hotel laundry lists. They would be forever listing "hanks" as an item, and eventually I asked the person at the front desk what the heck a hank was. I knew that the laundry list hadn't changed since the 1970's, since it also listed slacks and sports shirts and had no box for t-shirts. The chap was as lost as I was, or pretended to be, and it was only recently, when I saw the word in Gresham's "Nightmare Alley" (see okana borra), that I twigged the obvious. For who carries a handkerchief nowadays? The custom is from the days when paper was for writing on, not snotting. Handkerchiefs smell irremediably of one's father.

    June 29, 2012

  • Traditionally, a measure of length for yarn, which varies by market and material. In Scotland and northern England, a hank of cotton yarn measured 840 yards (768 meters); a hank of wool yarn measured 560 yards (512 meters). In the United States, though, a hank of woolen yarn was generally 1,600 yards (1,463 meters). In retail trade, a hank was often equal to 6 or 7 skeins of varying size.

    November 6, 2007