Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

hand-me-up

noun [countable]

something that a younger person gives to an older person because they no longer use it or they have something better to replace it

hand-me-up

adjective

hand-me-up

verb [transitive]

'And more and more older users are joining the throng as PC prices fall and adult children give “hand-me-up” computers to mom and dad.'

BusinessWeek 9th July 1998

'My driver is a hand-me-up from my son but it's still young, maybe 5 years old.'

Golfweb.com 26th February 2001

the mobile phone boom has been a major contributor to the hand-me-up phenomenon – parents are often the recipients of their children's cast-off phones, and are being educated in how to use them by their children

There is evidence for use of the term hand-me-up as far back as the 1980s, where it was originally associated with the idea of passing on articles of clothing from children to their parents or older members of their family. Just as younger children conventionally suffer the sometimes humiliating experience of wearing the hand-me-down clothes of their older siblings, often as an economy, in the same way parents have been incorporating their children's clothes into their wardrobe to compensate for the wasteful habits of fashion-conscious teenagers. A father who is not so selective about fit or fashion wears the hand-me-up T-shirt of his son, declaring that it is 'like new'. A mother talks about her most fashionable outfit consisting of hand-me-ups from her oldest daughter. There is also evidence for use of hand-me-up as a ditransitive verb, as in:

'The belt was hand-me-upped to my very petite sister Rachel, who is six years older.'

Current use of the term hand-me-up is not restricted to items of clothing however. In the context of the transient technological development of the last decade, where devices are continuously being re-cast with enhanced capacity and design, the idea of a hand-me-up has gained considerable ground. The mobile phone boom has been a major contributor to the hand-me-up phenomenon – parents are often the recipients of their children's cast-off phones, and are being educated in how to use them by their children. Similarly, a common context is the acquisition of newer, sleeker and faster computing technology, e.g.:

'They got the Dell as a hand-me-up from my uncle when he upgraded his machine a couple of years ago.'

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 1st August 2003.

Open Dictionary

subtweet

to post a tweet, usually a negative one, that mentions a person without using the @ sign, so that they will not see the message on their Twitter feed …

add a word

Blog

A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog

Word of the Day

alms

money, food, or clothes given to poor people