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.
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.