A line used or pulled by hand for some purpose; especially a fishing line used without a rod, typically attached to the side of a vessel.
Now chiefly in form hand line. A line attached to a hand lead, marked at regular intervals up to 20 fathoms, used for taking soundings in shallow water. Now chiefly historical.
For a list of the different marks on a hand line, see for example M. Wood Sailing Tall (2004) iv. 48.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Foreign Accounts 8 Henry V. From hand + line.