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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dorsal and palmar aspects
of human right hand
Latin manus
Vein dorsal venous network of hand
Nerve ulnar nerve, median nerve, radial nerve
MeSH Hand

A hand (med./lat.: manus, pl. manūs) is a prehensile, multi-fingered body part normally located at the end of an arm or forelimb of a primate.

Hands are the chief organs for physically manipulating the environment, used for both gross motor skills (such as grasping a large object) and fine motor skills (such as picking up a small pebble). The fingertips contain some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body, are the richest source of tactile feedback, and have the greatest positioning capability of the body; thus the sense of touch is intimately associated with hands. Like other paired organs (eyes, ears, legs), each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposing brain hemisphere, and thus handedness, or preferred hand choice for single-handed activities such as writing with a pen, reflects a significant individual trait.

Some evolutionary anatomists use hand to refer more generally to the appendage of digits on the forelimb, for example, in the context of whether the three digits of the bird hand involved the same homologous loss of two digits as in the dinosaur hand.[1]


What constitutes a hand?

Many mammals and other animals have grasping appendages similar in form to a hand such as paws, claws, and talons, but these are not scientifically considered to be grasping hands. The scientific use of the term hand in this sense to distinguish the terminations of the front paws from the hind ones is an example of anthropomorphism. The only true grasping hands appear in the mammalian order of primates. Hands must also have opposable thumbs, as described later in the text.

Humans have only two hands (except in cases of polymelia),[2] each of which is normally located at the distal end of each arm. Apes and monkeys are sometimes described as having four hands, because the toes are long and the hallux is opposable and looks more like a thumb, thus enabling the feet to be used as hands. Also, some apes have toes that are longer than human fingers.[3]

The word "hand" is sometimes used by evolutionary anatomists to refer to the appendage of digits on the forelimb such as when researching the homology between the three digits of the bird hand and the dinosaur hand.[1]

Anatomy of the human hand

The human hand consists of a broad palm (metacarpus) with 5 digits, attached to the forearm by a joint called the wrist (carpus).[4][5] The back of the hand is formally called the dorsum of the hand.


The four fingers on the hand are used for the outermost performance; these four digits can be folded over the palm which allows the grasping of objects. Each finger, starting with the one closest to the thumb, has a colloquial name to distinguish it from the others:

The thumb (connected to the trapezium) is located on one of the sides, parallel to the arm. The thumb can be easily rotated 90°, on a level perpendicular to the palm, unlike the other fingers which can only be rotated approximately 45°. A reliable way of identifying true hands is from the presence of opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs are identified by the ability to be brought opposite to the fingers, a muscle action known as opposition.


Illustration depicting the bones of the human hand

The human hand has 27 bones: the carpus or wrist account for 8; the metacarpus or palm contains five; the remaining fourteen are digital bones; fingers and thumb

The eight bones of the wrist are arranged in two rows of four. These bones fit into a shallow socket formed by the bones of the forearm. The bones of proximal row are (from lateral to medial): scaphoid, lunate, triquetral and pisiform. The bones of the distal row are (from lateral to medial): trapezium, trapezoid, capitate and hamate.

The palm has five bones known as metacarpal bones, one to each of the 5 digits. These metacarpals have a head, a shaft, and a base.

Human hands contain fourteen digital bones, also called phalanges, or phalanx bones: two in the thumb (the thumb has no middle phalanx) and three in each of the four fingers. These are the distal phalanx, carrying the nail, the middle phalanx, and the proximal phalanx.

Sesamoid bones are small ossified nodes embedded in the tendons to provide extra leverage and reduce pressure on the underlying tissue. Many exist around the palm at the bases of the digits; the exact number varies between different people.


Also of note is that the articulation of the human hand is more complex and delicate than that of comparable organs in any other animals. Without this extra articulation, we would not be able to operate a wide variety of tools and devices. The hand can also form a fist, for example in combat, or as a gesture.

The articulations are:

Muscles and tendons

Muscles and other structures of wrist and palm

The movements of the human hand are accomplished by two sets of each of these tissues. They can be subdivided into two groups: the extrinsic and intrinsic muscle groups. The extrinsic muscle groups are the long flexors and extensors. They are called extrinsic because the muscle belly is located on the forearm.

The intrinsic muscle groups are the thenar and hypothenar muscles (thenar referring to the thumb, hypothenar to the small finger), the interossei muscles (between the metacarpal bones, four dorsally and three volarly) and the lumbrical muscles. These muscles arise from the deep flexor (and are special because they have no bony origin) and insert on the dorsal extensor hood mechanism. The intrinsic muscles of hand can be remembered using the mnemonic, "A OF A OF A" for, Abductor pollicis longus, Opponens pollicis, Flexor pollicis brevis, Adductor pollicis (thenar muscles) and Opponens digiti minimi, Flexor digiti minimi, Abductor digiti minimi (hypothenar muscles). [6]

The fingers have two long flexors, located on the underside of the forearm. They insert by tendons to the phalanges of the fingers. The deep flexor attaches to the distal phalanx, and the superficial flexor attaches to the middle phalanx. The flexors allow for the actual bending of the fingers. The thumb has one long flexor and a short flexor in the thenar muscle group. The human thumb also has other muscles in the thenar group (opponens and abductor brevis muscle), moving the thumb in opposition, making grasping possible.

The extensors are located on the back of the forearm and are connected in a more complex way than the flexors to the dorsum of the fingers. The tendons unite with the interosseous and lumbrical muscles to form the extensorhood mechanism. The primary function of the extensors is to straighten out the digits. The thumb has two extensors in the forearm; the tendons of these form the anatomical snuff box. Also, the index finger and the little finger have an extra extensor, used for instance for pointing. The extensors are situated within 6 separate compartments. The 1st compartment contains abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis. The 2nd compartment contains extensors carpi radialis longus and brevis. The 3rd compartment contains extensor pollicis longus. The extensor digitorum indicis and extensor digititorum communis are within the 4th compartment. Extensor digiti minimi is in the fifth, and extensor carpi ulnaris is in the 6th.


Some people have more than the usual number of fingers or toes, a condition called polydactyly.[7] Others may have more than the typical number of metacarpal bones, a condition often caused by genetic disorders like Catel-Manzke syndrome. The average length of an adult male hand is 189 mm, while the average length of an adult female hand is 172 mm. The average hand breadth for adult males and females is 84 and 74 mm respectively.[8]

Additional images

Static adult human physical characteristics of the hand.  
Female hands  
An x-ray showing the bones of the human hand.  

See also


  1. ^ a b Xing Xu et al.(2009). A Jurassic ceratosaur from China helps clarify avian digital homologies. Nature 459: 940-944 doi:10.1038/nature08124
  2. ^ "Three-armed boy to have surgery". BBC News. 2006-05-31. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  
  3. ^ "Primate Feet". Retrieved December 2009.   (JPG)
  4. ^ "Nature Bulletin No. 611". Division of Educational Programs, Argonne National Laboratory. 1960-10-01. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  
  5. ^ "hand". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  6. ^ "Medical mnemonics". LifeHugger. Retrieved 2009-12-19.  
  7. ^ "Polydactyly and Syndactyly". Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  
  8. ^ Agnihotri, A. K.; B. Purwar, N. Jeebun, S. Agnihotri (2006). Determination Of Sex By Hand Dimensions. 1. The Internet Journal of Forensic Science. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also hand




From Old High German hant from Germanic *hanþaz, maybe from a Germanic noun *hinþan meaning catch



Hand f. (genitive Hand, plural Hände, diminutive Händchen or Händlein)

  1. hand


Derived terms

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Called by Galen "the instrument of instruments." It is the symbol of human action (Ps 916; Job 9:30; Isa 1:15; 1 Tim 2:8). Washing the hands was a symbol of innocence (Ps 266; 73:13; Mt 27:24), also of sanctification (1Cor 6:11; Isa 51:16; Ps 243, 4). In Ps 772 the correct rendering is, as in the Revised Version, "My hand was stretched out," etc., instead of, as in the Authorized Version, "My sore ran in the night," etc.

The right hand denoted the south, and the left the north (Job 23:9; 1Sam 23:19). To give the right hand was a pledge of fidelity (2Kg 10:15; Ez 10:19); also of submission to the victors (Ezek 17:18; Jer 50:15). The right hand was lifted up in taking an oath (Gen 14:22, etc.). The hand is frequently mentioned, particularly the right hand, as a symbol of power and strength (Ps 605; Isa 28:2). To kiss the hand is an act of homage (1 Kg 19:18; Job 31:27), and to pour water on one's hands is to serve him (2Kg 3:11). The hand of God is the symbol of his power: its being upon one denotes favour (Ez 7:6, 28; Isa 1:25; Lk 1:66, etc.) or punishment (Ex 9:3; Jdg 2:15; Acts 13:11, etc.). A position at the right hand was regarded as the chief place of honour and power (Ps 459; 80:17; 110:1; Mt 26:64).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|200px|A human hand usually has four fingers and a thumb.]]

A hand is the body part at the end of an arm. Most humans have two hands each, usually with four fingers and a thumb. On the inside of the hand is the palm. When the fingers are all bent tightly the hand forms a fist. The joints that are the hardest part of the fist are called knuckles. Many other animals have hands as well, mostly other primates.

The word "hand" is also used in card games. A "hand of cards" is a group of cards that one player can see but others cannot.

Hands are good at grabbing things.

They are also good for hitting things, such as people. Most people use the palm of their hand for this activity.

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