What Does Hands Down Mean?

Hands Down Meaning

Definition: Without question; absolutely; without effort.

This phrase is typically used to give emphasis when expressing an opinion.

Origin of Hands Down

Most sources cite horse races as the origin of this expression. Jockeys typically hold the reins tightly during a race, unless they are very far ahead and are certain to win. When they are far ahead, they may relax their hands and put them into the hands down position.

Therefore, an announcer might say that a jockey won a race hands down. This means that the jockey won easily, far enough ahead of the others so that there was no question and no doubt about the win.

Over time, the expression became applicable to any situation in which someone accomplished something easily, or an opinion was expressed that the speaker believed was without question.

Examples of Hands Down

what is the meaning of hands downHere is an example of the idiom used by two co-workers who are complaining about a third.

Regina: You’ll never believe what Becca did this time.

Ginny: Oh no. What did she do? 

Regina: She claimed that I was putting viruses on her computer. I wouldn’t even know how to do something like that!

Ginny: She is, hands down, the worst person here are the office.

Regina: The worst!

meaning of hands downIn this example, two friends are discussing a third friend’s claim that he bakes the best bread.

Kevin: Do you want some of this bread?

Steve: Did you make it?

Kevin: No. Eric made it. Why?

Steve: Well, no offense, but your bread isn’t very good. So, yes! I’d love some.

Kevin: I would be offended, but Eric makes the best bread, hands down, so I can’t really argue with your logic.

More Examples

In the example below, an athlete uses this expression when answering a question about a person that he admires. He uses it to give emphasis to the fact that he admires Kobe Bryant more than anyone else. 

  • Q: Other athletes in other sports you admire?
  • A: Kobe Bryant, hands down. My goal one day is to meet him, so if somehow, some way, you guys can get me connected with him, I would love to meet him, pick his brain a little bit. New York Post

In this second example, a person is quoted saying that some passengers get more use for the same value out of their subway pass than other riders who take different routes.

  • “Passengers on the top lines – such as the 1, 7, and L – hands down get a much better bang for their MetroCard buck than those on its worst, such as the 5 or A,” said Gene Russianoff, who is the Straphangers Campaign’s senior attorney. “Disparities abound throughout the system.” New York Post


The phrase hands down is used to emphasize how true an opinion is. It can also describe how easily someone accomplished something, especially in the context of winning.