The term is now used to suggest speed and profusion, especially in financial dealing, e.g. 'making money, hand over fist'. In the 18th century 'hand over hand' and the later 'hand over fist' had a different meaning though and meant 'making steady progress'. 'Hand over fist' is a little more descriptive of hauling on a rope than 'hand over hand', after all, when we grab on a rope to . Making money hand over fist means to make a lot of money quickly. This term has a nautical history. It relates to the practice of climbing a rope hand over hand. This soon became known as hand over fist, with the fist being the hand gripping the rope. The term hand over fist soon evolved from making progress up a rope to making progress generally. Today, it relates only to .
make (or lose or spend) money hand over fist make (or lose or spend) money very rapidly or in very large quantities. informal This phrase first appeared in the mid 18th century as hand over hand. Found in nautical contexts, it referred to the movement of a person's hands when rapidly climbing a rope or hauling it in. hand over fist. If you make or lose money hand over fist, you make or lose a lot of money very quickly: Business was good and we were making money hand over fist. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases.