What does the idiom "like the back of one's hand" mean?

like the back of one's hand is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression like the back of one's hand is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "like the back of one's hand"


The phrase “like the back of one’s hand” is an idiomatic expression used to denote something that a person is very familiar with. It suggests a level of knowledge and understanding that is deep and comprehensive, and could even be called intimate. This is a phrase that can be used to talk about physical places, as well as more abstract concepts, such as the ins and outs of a particular activity or profession.


The expression “like the back of one’s hand” is believed to have originated in England in the late 16th or early 17th century. The phrase is thought to have been derived from the proverb “to know one’s way about as if one had the palms of their hands on the wall.” This proverb referred to the idea of navigation; for example, it was common for people to navigate through a building by feeling the walls with the palms of their hand, as if they knew the layout of the building like the back of their hand. Over time, the phrase was shortened to “like the back of one’s hand.”


This expression is frequently used in informal contexts and is most commonly heard in everyday conversation. It can be used to emphasize the level of knowledge and familiarity a person has with a subject, particularly when a situation or location needs no additional explanation. Additionally, this expression can be used to show that a person has a lot of experience or in-depth knowledge of something.

Example Sentences

  • My grandfather knows this town like the back of his hand - he's lived here most of his life.
  • I'm an electrician, and I know my way around wiring like the back of my hand.
  • After working at the restaurant for five years, I know the menu like the back of my hand.

The meanings of the words in the "like the back of one's hand" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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