dead hand

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dead hand

1. The ever-present, oppressive influence of past events: "Psychotherapy explores the ways in which the past has shaped people, and how its dead hand continues to deform their lives" (James S. Gordon).
2. Mortmain.

[Middle English dede hond, translation of Old French mortemain or Medieval Latin manus mortua, mortmain.]

dead hand

1. an oppressive or discouraging influence or factor: the dead hand of centralized control.
2. (Law) law a less common word for mortmain



1. the condition of lands or tenements held without right of alienation, as by an ecclesiastical corporation.
2. the perpetual holding of land, esp. by a corporation or charitable trust.
[1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, translation of Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.dead hand - real property held inalienably (as by an ecclesiastical corporation)
corp, corporation - a business firm whose articles of incorporation have been approved in some state
immovable, real estate, real property, realty - property consisting of houses and land
2.dead hand - the oppressive influence of past events or decisions
influence - a power to affect persons or events especially power based on prestige etc; "used her parents' influence to get the job"
References in classic literature ?
The bottle fell from his dead hand upon the yams without breaking, although the remnant of its contents gurgled gently out upon the deck.
Slowly and feebly he raised it high above the back of the man on top of him; with a last supreme effort he drove the point downward, but ere it reached its goal there was a sharp snapping sound as of a broken bone, the dagger fell harmlessly from his dead hand, and his head rolled backward upon his broken neck.
Down in the yard lies Austin with sprawling limbs, his face glimmering white in the dawn, and the hose nozzle still projecting from his dead hand.
Already, however, the legal tongues are wagging, and one young law student is loudly asserting that the rights of the owner are already completely sacrificed, his property being held in contravention of the statues of mortmain, since the tiller, as emblemship, if not proof, of delegated possession, is held in a dead hand.
Like the jed who had brought me, he was frightfully scarred, and also decorated with the breastplate of human skulls and dried dead hands which seemed to mark all the greater warriors among the Warhoons, as well as to indicate their awful ferocity, which greatly transcends even that of the Tharks.
By the dead hands at my throat but he shall die, Bar Comas.
You are withering away like the dead hands that wove you.
The pale roses Amy gave him were the sort that the Italians lay in dead hands, never in bridal wreaths, and for a moment he wondered if the omen was for Jo or for himself, but the next instant his American common sense got the better of sentimentality, and he laughed a heartier laugh than Amy had heard since he came.
The dead hand of government conservation bodies now poses the biggest threat to coastal communities in the 21st century.
It seems that Scrooge's calling card was found in the cold, dead hand of Fezziwig's body, and someone scribbled "Humbug" in blood on the floor nearby.
All this and not having the dead hand of Europe restricting us.
Comedian Amy Schumer wrote and stars in Trainwreck but her charm can't overcome her own limited script or the dead hand of director Judd Apatow.