The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Handsome \Hand"some\ (h[a^]n"s[u^]m; 277), a. [Compar.
Handsomer (-[~e]r); superl. Handsomest.] [Hand + -some.
It at first meant, dexterous; cf. D. handzaam dexterous,
ready, limber, manageable, and E. handy.]
1. Dexterous; skillful; handy; ready; convenient; -- applied
to things as persons. [Obs.]
That they [engines of war] be both easy to be
carried and handsome to be moved and turned about.
For a thief it is so handsome as it may seem it was
first invented for him. --Spenser.
2. Agreeable to the eye or to correct taste; having a
pleasing appearance or expression; attractive; having
symmetry and dignity; comely; -- expressing more than
pretty, and less than beautiful; as, a handsome man or
woman; a handsome garment, house, tree, horse.
3. Suitable or fit in action; marked with propriety and ease;
graceful; becoming; appropriate; as, a handsome style,
Easiness and handsome address in writing. --Felton.
4. Evincing a becoming generosity or nobleness of character;
Handsome is as handsome does. --Old Proverb.
5. Ample; moderately large.
He . . . accumulated a handsome sum of money. --V.
To do the handsome thing, to act liberally. [Colloq.]
Syn: Handsome, Pretty.
Usage: Pretty applies to things comparatively small, which
please by their delicacy and grace; as, a pretty girl,
a pretty flower, a pretty cottage. Handsome rises
higher, and is applied to objects on a larger scale.
We admire what is handsome, we are pleased with what
is pretty. The word is connected with hand, and has
thus acquired the idea of training, cultivation,
symmetry, and proportion, which enters so largely into
our conception of handsome. Thus Drayton makes mention
of handsome players, meaning those who are well
trained; and hence we speak of a man's having a
handsome address, which is the result of culture; of a
handsome horse or dog, which implies well proportioned
limbs; of a handsome face, to which, among other
qualities, the idea of proportion and a graceful
contour are essential; of a handsome tree, and a
handsome house or villa. So, from this idea of
proportion or suitableness, we have, with a different
application, the expressions, a handsome fortune, a