rub one’s hands together: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘rub one's hands together’ mean?

The idiom "rub one's hands together" means to display satisfaction or anticipation, typically in a scheming or greedy manner. It can imply someone's eagerness for success or an opportunistic mindset.

Idiom Explorer


The idiom "rub one's hands together" is a commonly used expression in the English language. It refers to the action of rubbing the palms of one's hands against each other with a repetitive or excited motion. This idiom is often used to convey a sense of anticipation, excitement, or satisfaction.

The origin of this idiom can be traced back to a gesture that is commonly associated with scheming, greed, or mischief. When someone rubs their hands together in a rapid or vigorous manner, it can be interpreted as a visual representation of one's eagerness or satisfaction in a cunning or deceitful plan.

The literal act of rubbing one's hands together may have also influenced the metaphorical meaning of this idiom. The physical sensation of rubbing one's hands together can create friction and warmth, which can symbolize a feeling of anticipation or excitement. This connection between physical action and emotional state may have contributed to the idiomatic usage of the phrase.

In various contexts, "rubbing one's hands together" can have slightly different connotations. For example, in a business or financial setting, this idiom is often used to imply a feeling of satisfaction or success in a deal or negotiation. It can also suggest a sense of anticipation or readiness to take advantage of an opportunity.

Rubbing hands together creates friction.

In a similar vein, the idiom "join hands" is often used to convey a sense of collaboration or unity. When people join hands, they come together to work towards a common goal or to show support for one another. This idiomatic expression reflects the power of working together and the strength that can be found in numbers.

Similarly, the phrase "with both hands" is used to convey enthusiasm or wholehearted involvement in something. When someone embraces an opportunity or takes on a task "with both hands," they are fully committed and ready to give it their all. This expression suggests a level of dedication and excitement that mirrors the sense of anticipation and readiness conveyed by "rubbing one's hands together."

On the other hand, the idiom "make one's hand" is used to indicate success or skill in a particular field or endeavor. When someone has "made their hand," they have achieved a level of mastery or expertise. This expression highlights the value of hard work, dedication, and the ability to excel in a given area.

Finally, the phrase "rub elbows" is often used to describe social interaction or networking. When people rub elbows, they come into contact with one another in a social setting, often with the intention of forming connections or gaining access to opportunities. This idiom emphasizes the importance of building relationships and making connections to navigate social or professional environments.

Overall, the idiom "rub one's hands together" is a versatile expression that conveys different shades of meaning depending on the context. It is commonly used to indicate anticipation, excitement, satisfaction, collaboration, dedication, skill, and social interaction. The origins of this idiom can be traced back to both symbolic and literal gestures, which have become embedded in the English language as a means of expressing certain emotions, actions, or intentions.

While the exact origins and evolution of this idiom may remain elusive, its widespread usage and cultural significance demonstrate its enduring relevance in the English language. Like many idioms, "rubbing one's hands together" is a linguistic expression that has transcended its literal meaning to become a powerful tool for communication. Its inclusion in everyday conversation and literature reflects the human fascination with gestures, metaphors, and the rich tapestry of language.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "rub one's hands together" can be used in a sentence:

  • She rubbed her hands together in excitement before opening the gift.
  • The villain laughed evilly and rubbed his hands together, plotting his next move.
  • He rubbed his hands together nervously as he waited for the results of the test.

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