to the hilt


the handle of a sword or dagger.
the handle of any weapon or tool.
verb (used with object)
to furnish with a hilt.
to the hilt, to the maximum extent or degree; completely; fully: to play the role to the hilt. Also, up to the hilt.

before 900; Middle English, Old English hilt(e); cognate with Middle Dutch hilt(e), Old Norse hjalt, Old High German helza handle of a sword Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
hilt (hɪlt)
1.  the handle or shaft of a sword, dagger, etc
2.  to the hilt to the full
3.  (tr) to supply with a hilt
[Old English; related to Old Norse hjalt, Old Saxon helta oar handle, Old High German helza]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. hilt, from P.Gmc. *kheltiz (cf. O.N. hjalt, O.H.G. helza "hilt," O.S. helta "oar handle"), of uncertain origin. Formerly also used in pl. in same sense as singular.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

to the hilt

Also, up to the hilt. Completely, to the maximum degree, as in The house was mortgaged up to the hilt. This idiom alludes to the handle (hilt) of a sword, the only portion that remains out when the weapon is plunged all the way in. The figurative use of the term was first recorded in 1687.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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