Word Origin & History
O.E. handle, formed from hand in the sense of a tool in the way thimble was formed from thumb. The verb is O.E. handlian "to touch or move with the hands." Akin to O.N. höndla "th seize, capture," Dan. handle "to trade, deal," Ger. handeln "to bargain, trade." The commercial sense was weaker in
Eng. than in some other Gmc. languages, but it emerged in Amer.Eng. (1888) from the notion of something passing through one's hands. The slang sense of "nickname" is first recorded 1870. Handlebar first recorded 1887 (as two words), in reference to bicycles; of mustaches, it is first recorded 1933. To fly off the handle (1843) is a figurative reference to an axe head. To get a handle on "get control of" is first recorded 1972. Handler "boxer's assistant" (1950) was originally in dogfights or cockfights (1825).