I often see two-handed used with weapons. But have never seen two-hand.

However, with a weapon that needs only one hand I've met both one-hand and one-handed.

Are they both correct?

  • 1
    The most common noun after two-handed is sword (weapon, broadsword and rod are also common), so it's closely associated with that specific sub-sense (as opposed to, say, a two-handed game). We don't often need to explicitly say that something can be held/used with one hand (by default, we assume practically everything manipulable is capable of being hefted with one hand). So for your very specific context you should probably just mimic the established two-handed and go for one-handed. Commented May 4, 2017 at 18:24
  • It might seem irrelevant with one-hand[ed] weapon, but it gets messy with one-hand gun - especially in a spoken context, where everyone would tend to hear it as one handgun. Commented May 4, 2017 at 18:28
  • Judging by the movie clips I've seen, it's possible to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile with just one hand - although I've not seen them referred to as one-handed missiles. Commented May 4, 2017 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


"Hand" and "handed" have two distinct meanings.

  • You can use the word "hand" by itself, when speaking about a hand that is doing nothing.
  • "Handed" specifically denotes an action involved, ie doing something one-handed.

You can describe a weapon as "a one-hand weapon" or "a one-handed weapon" because the first describes the design of the weapon (it fits in one hand) and the second describes the way that it is used (it can be fired with one hand).

You can't say "two hand" in the same way, because it would be "two hands". And I would suggest this is why you do not hear a weapon, or anything else correctly described that way.

  • What about duel-hand? Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:14
  • @SovereignSun Are you confusing "duel" with "dual"?
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:23
  • My phone is, in fact, yes. 'Dual-hand' it is, indeed. Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:25
  • 1
    @SovereignSun "Dual-hand" is acceptable because it can mean "either" as well as "both". For example "dual-purpose" can mean something does two things, not necessarily at the same time.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:25

Definition of one–handed MWD

  • 1 : having or using only one hand could beat him up one–handed

  • 2 a : designed for or requiring the use of only one hand

  • 2 b : effected by the use of only one hand

So it is defined in the dictionary. I've heard "He caught it one-handed."

  • Would a composition for piano four-hands be considered four-handed?
    – TimR
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:54
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Sorry, I do not know.
    – WRX
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:05
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo No, it would be described as a "duet" - two people. When you think about it, most things are only noteworthy if they are one-handed, as most people have two hands. If I told you I rode my bike one-handed, that is remarkable. It would be redundant to say I rode it two-handed, as that is the correct way to ride a bike.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:13
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo After some time, the right answer is 'piano piece for four hands' Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:13

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