lank hand

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Senior Member
Dear All,

I have come across this phrase in George Orwell's 1984. Winston and Ampleforth are in custody in a room with benches around the walls. Here is the following:

"Ampleforth, too large to sit in comfort on the narrow bench, fidgeted from side to side, clasping his lank hands first round one knee, then round the other."

On the internet, I haven't found anything about "lank hand" so far. The website of Cambridge Dictionaries gives this explanation for the word lank:

"Lank hair is not attractive because it is completely straight and thin."

There is nothing about "lank hand".

Could you explain what it means please?

Thank you in advance.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    "Long and thin (and unattractive because of it)" is still the idea. It's true, 'lank' is usually used about hair, but when I read 'lank hands' I get an image.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers:

    lank /læŋk/adj
    1. long and limp
    2. thin or gaunt
    or (in the case of hands) perhaps any combination of those.

    If the character in question here is "large" all round, his hands aren't likely to be thin or gaunt, so I'd plump for "long and limp".


    Senior Member
    English - England
    OED (in an entry not updated since 1901) gives
    A. adj.
    a. [ a. of the animal body or its parts.] Loose from emptiness; not filled out or plump; shrunken, spare; flabby, hollow.
    b. [of vegetable growth.] Of grass: Long and flaccid.
    2. Of hair: Without curl or wave, straight and flat.

    Also used in compounds: lank-bellied , lank-cheeked, lank-eared , lank-haired, lank-jawed , lank-legged, etc.,
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