Is Hand in Glove a Metaphor??

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Key Takeaways:

  • “Hand in glove” is a metaphor that means “in extremely close relationship or agreement”.
  • The phrase compares the close fit of a hand in a glove to a tight partnership between two entities.
  • It originated in the 16th century from the closeness between a hand and a tight glove.
  • “Hand in glove” is used to describe close relationships in politics, business, sports, and more.
  • Understanding metaphors like this enriches language and highlights nuances in relationships.


Metaphors are woven into the fabric of our everyday language and often go unnoticed in conversation. But metaphors can add color, imagery, and depth to language when consciously used. Examining the underlying meaning and origins of metaphors can unveil new perspectives on how we communicate ideas. One such metaphor is the phrase “hand in glove”, which has stood the test of time over hundreds of years. But what exactly does this metaphor mean and how did it become ingrained in the English lexicon? This comprehensive article will explore the definition, origins, usage, and value of the metaphorical idiom “hand in glove”.

Having a solid grasp of metaphors like “hand in glove” enriches language skills and allows more nuanced communication. By the end of this article, readers will have an in-depth understanding of the meaning, history, and usage of the metaphor “hand in glove”, as well as an appreciation for how metaphors add dimension to everyday language and expression.

What Does the Metaphor “Hand in Glove” Mean??

At its core, “hand in glove” is a metaphor that means “in an extremely close relationship or in complete agreement”. The phrase compares the close fit of a hand inside a tight glove to close partnerships or alignments between people, groups, or entities. Just as a hand and glove work in sync, “hand in glove” suggests that two or more parties are working seamlessly together, often to accomplish shared goals and interests.

Some key aspects of the metaphor include:

  • Close fit – A hand fits snugly and perfectly inside its glove, just as closely allied groups fit or work well together.
  • Synchronicity – A hand and glove move and act as one, just as tightly connected partners are synchronized in their efforts.
  • Shared goals – A hand and glove work toward the same purpose, just as aligned groups share mutual objectives.

So in essence, “hand in glove” means united, connected, or inseparable, like a hand inside its glove. This metaphor evokes vivid imagery to highlight the tight relationship.

What Are the Origins of the Metaphor “Hand in Glove”??

The first documented use of the phrase “hand in glove” dates back to the mid-16th century. It first appeared in a 1553 text from England that stated: “Filthie tippling houses, and such like dens of whoredom, wherein (hand and glove) all uncleaness is harboured.”

The phrase draws obvious parallels to the physical closeness of a hand inside a fitted glove. Gloves from centuries past were typically tight-fitting and stitched to match the wearer’s hand size and shape. Once a hand was inserted into its personal glove, the two became snugly connected and dexterous together.

This hand-in-glove unity and dexterity served as an effective metaphor for human relationships that were strongly attached, aligned, and mutually reinforcing. By the early 17th century, Shakespeare used the phrase in multiple plays, helping it gain wider popularity. And by the 1800s, “hand in glove” was firmly established in English vernacular as a metaphor comparing close human connections to a hand in its glove.

So the idiom derives directly from the snug fit between a hand and glove, making it an apt metaphor for human cooperation, teamwork, and intimate relationships.

How is the Metaphor “Hand in Glove” Used??

The idiomatic phrase “hand in glove” has endured in the English language because it remains a vivid metaphor for synchronized, goal-oriented human connections. Here are some examples of how the metaphor is flexibly used:


  • The senator and the lobbyist worked hand in glove to shape beneficial legislation.
  • The political party and associated think tank operate hand in glove to drive their ideological agenda.


  • The ad agency worked hand in glove with the client to launch a successful campaign.
  • The manufacturer and supplier work hand in glove to optimize production.


  • The pitcher and catcher worked hand in glove, perfectly in sync.
  • The striker and midfielder played hand in glove, assisting each other’s goals.


  • Mark and Jane were hand in glove, completely united after decades of marriage.
  • The two best friends were hand in glove, supporting each other’s interests.

So in many different contexts, “hand in glove” flexibly describes cooperative and closely aligned relationships between individuals, groups, organizations, and more. The metaphor succeeds because it conjures a vivid sensory image of two entities working together as dexterously as a hand in a glove.

Why Do Metaphors Like “Hand in Glove” Matter??

Metaphors have always played an important role in human language and communication. By comparing unlike things indirectly, metaphors create vivid sensory representations that help convey abstract or complex concepts. This enhances understanding, engages imagination and emotions, and adds color to communication.

Specifically, established metaphors like “hand in glove” continue to matter for several reasons:

  • Persistence – Their longevity indicates value and relevance, even as language evolves.
  • Nuance – They add layers of nuanced meaning beyond literal expressions.
  • Vividness – Metaphors make communication more sensory, imaginative, and engaging.
  • Succinctness – A short metaphor can replace lengthy literal descriptions.
  • Creativity – Metaphors display human creativity and problem-solving in action.

In summary, time-tested metaphors are important because they unlock dimensions of communication and understanding not achievable with purely literal language. Examining metaphors also provides fascinating insight into how past societies framed concepts and ideas.


In conclusion, “hand in glove” endures as an established English metaphor due to its vivid depiction of close, synchronized alliances between entities, akin to a hand working dexterously within its glove. This idiom originated from the snug fit of hands in gloves, and has flexibly described cooperative relationships in fields like politics, business, sports, and more since the 1500s. Beyond their literal meanings, metaphors like “hand in glove” add nuance, succinctness, and creativity to our everyday use of language

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