• Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Handsel A sale, gift, or delivery into the hand of another; especially, a sale, gift, delivery, or using which is the first of a series, and regarded as an omen for the rest; a first installment; an earnest; as the first money received for the sale of goods in the morning, the first money taken at a shop newly opened, the first present sent to a young woman on her wedding day, etc. "Their first good handsel of breath in this world.""Our present tears here, not our present laughter,
      Are but the handsels of our joys hereafter."
    • Handsel Price; payment.
    • Handsel To give a handsel to.
    • Handsel To use or do for the first time, esp. so as to make fortunate or unfortunate; to try experimentally. "No contrivance of our body, but some good man in Scripture hath handseled it with prayer."
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n handsel A gift or token of good fortune or good will; especially, a New-Year's gift; an earnest or earnest-penny; a sale, gift, or delivery which is regarded as the first of a series; the first money taken in the morning in the way of trade; the first earnings of any one in a new employment or place of business; the first money taken in a shop newly opened; the first present sent to a young woman on her wedding-day, etc.
    • handsel Used or employed for the first time; newly acquired or inherited.
    • handsel To give handsel to; use or do for the first time; try as for luck.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Handsel hand′sel the first sale or using of anything: earnest-money or part-payment by way of binding a bargain:
    • v.t Handsel to give a handsel: to use or do anything the first time
    • n Handsel hand′sel (Scot.) a gift made on the first Monday of the year to a child or servant: a New-year's gift
    • ***


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
OE. handsal, hansal, hansel, AS. handselen,a giving into hands, or more prob. fr. Icel. handsal,; hand, hand + sal, sale, bargain; akin to AS. sellan, to give, deliver. See Sell Sale.
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. handselen, a giving into the hands of another; or Ice. handsal.


In literature:

Every one looks for his handsel.
"Edinburgh Picturesque Notes" by Robert Louis Stevenson
I've brought you the handsel of my innocence!
"Nana, The Miller's Daughter, Captain Burle, Death of Olivier Becaille" by Emile Zola
But the devil a sou the devils took; far from taking handsel, they were flouted and jeered by the country louts.
"Gargantua and Pantagruel, Complete." by Francois Rabelais
And, as I trow, said Sir Sagramore, ye shall have the same handsel that he had.
"Le Morte D'Arthur, Volume I (of II)" by Thomas Malory
They can scarcely be so base as to do murder having handselled peace to us.
"Eric Brighteyes" by H. Rider Haggard
So now he gave forth the handselling grandly with open mouth, and this is the beginning thereof.
"The Story of Grettir The Strong" by Translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris
Our present tears here, not our present laughter, Are but the handsells of our joys hereafter.
"Handy Dictionary of Poetical Quotations" by Various
You got no handsel to-day, Cannie?
"The Tithe-Proctor The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two" by William Carleton
For the first time Borrowdean found himself near Mrs. Handsell.
"A Lost Leader" by E. Phillips Oppenheim
It is still a custom if a child has anything new to wear, to handsell it.
"Weather and Folk Lore of Peterborough and District" by Charles Dack

In poetry:

Violets and anemones
The surrendered hours
Pour, as handsels, round the knees
Of the Spring, who to the breeze
Flings her myriad flowers.
"One Day And Another: A Lyrical Eclogue – Part I" by Madison Julius Cawein
And handsell'd from the Mower's scythe,
And bound with memory's living withe—
You and I and Burd so blithe—
Three maidens on a mound:
"Of Three Children" by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
Bob, here's Barnabas! Job, that's you?
Up stumps Solomon—-bustling too?
Shame, man! greedy beyond your years
To handsel the bishop's shaving-shears?
Fair play's a jewel! Leave friends in the lurch?
Stand on a line ere you start for the church!
"Holy-Cross Day" by Robert Browning