1An act of assistance provided by one person to another to help him or her climb on to something, or move to a higher place or a standing position, by using a hand or hands to pull up and support his or her weight. Frequently in "to give (a person) a hand up".
2figurative An act of assistance or aid (typically in the form of practical advice or support) given to a person or persons in order to help them improve their circumstances; a helping hand.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Bentley's Miscellany. From hand + up.