mano a mano


Mano-a-mano is a Spanish and Italian construction meaning "hand to hand". It was used originally for bullfights where two matadors alternate competing for the admiration of the audience.

Current Spanish usage describes any kind of competition between two people where they both compete trying to outdo each other.

Within the Doce Pares Eskrima fighting system, it is one of the three ranges of engagement, specifically the closest one. This does not indicate solely unarmed combat.

This term has been adopted in English with similar meaning, possibly by Ernest Hemingway. The English adoption can be likened to the phrases "one on one", "head to head", or "single combat".

It is commonly misunderstood as a cognate by English speakers who think that the term means "man to man".

French sometimes use this expression in a blend of the Portuguese and Spanish meaning. “Donner quelque chose de mano a mano” means to give something to someone in person, with direct physical contact (as opposed to using an intermediary, be it a common friend, a phone call or an e-mail).

Jack Nicholson mistakenly refers to the phrase as "mano y mano" (hand and hand) in his portrayal of The Joker in the film Batman (1989). Perhaps alluding to this misuse, ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman uses "mano y mano" in his football coverage.


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