Handful of years


Hi everyone.
When you hear the phrase, “handful of years,” how many years do you think it means?

I heard an anchor saying “Just a handful of years ago, the government enacted the discriminatory law against the LGBTQ community…”

Since handful means the amount you can hold in your hands, does it mean from 1 year to 10 years?
  • anthox

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Maybe 3-5 years ago? It's obviously not very exact. But it must indicate more than two ("a couple of years ago") and probably less than 6-7.


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Okay, does that mean it has to be the number you can count with your one hand? Not both hands?
    A "handful" doesn't mean "an amount countable on your fingers." As I said, it's an imprecise measurement. It figuratively imagines holding some years in your hand. It means "more than a couple of years" but "less than many years."