Have you come across it before?
It means to have a period of time when you have nothing you must do.
It can be a great idiom to use when you are planning to do something in the short term or long term.
To help you, below are some examples of using this idiom.
“Now that she is retired, she has a lot of time on her hands”
“I have some time on my hands today so I can help you with your work.”
There is another idiom “time to kill” that means to have a period of time to do something before something else. It is similar to “time on one’s hands”. An example is:
“I had time to kill before class started so I grabbed a coffee at the cafe.”
There is no specific etymology that I can find for “time on one’s hands” except for references to its first use in 18th century literature. I surmise, however, that the expression might have something to do with the hands of a clock and not actual hands of a person. Anyway….
Here is a conversation with my friend and teaching colleague, Gordon McKee. He had some time to spare, so he saw a movie…..