Are there additional meanings to "mano a mano" besides "going head to head" with someone? Especially, can "mano" take on a different meaning in this phrase from the standard meaning "hand"?

I have been told (by a spanish speaker, so no possible confusion stemming from the phonetic proximity to "man") that the expression "mano a mano" is used all over Latin America as "man to man", where "mano" is short for "hermano". Is this the case? Is it very common?

I did a google search, but didn't find much to confirm this, possibly because it may very well be mostly used as such in conversation and not in writing. What I did find was a facebook group under the name "mano a mano por el hermano" whose logo features pairs of multicolored hands reaching out to one another, which suggests that mano a mano was understood as "hand to hand".

EDIT apparently "hablar mano a mano" is one such time, when mano is to be understood as brother, or man. Can anyone confirm/infirm this interpretation? I've read it coming from a woman, so I have my doubts.

  • Maybe helps you know these other expressions: Estamos a mano = "before there was a debt or imbalance, but we are now at peace". Está a la mano = "is near or accessible".
    – Rodrigo
    Mar 17, 2016 at 20:33
  • @Rodrigo: in Argentina, your second expression would be "está a mano". Mar 18, 2016 at 3:09

2 Answers 2


Mano a mano means a competition where none of the participants have a clear advantage. It literally translates to hand to hand as in combat, but the "combat" could be sports, or some other amicable competition.

You could say

Mi amigo y yo estábamos mano a mano apurando una botella de vodka a base de chupitos.

Note that in Spanish we use hombro con hombro to mean "fighting or working together".

While mano o manito stands for a shortened version of hermano in some latin american countries, I don't think that it relates to the mano of mano a mano. Even if you were told so by a native speaker, be aware that not all of us are masters of our own native languages (we all had to study our native languages to some extend, but that does not make us professors in our languages).

If you are interested, check the etymology of Mano. You'll see that it actually comes from a latin root that also means "power". Thus, the expression of ask for her hand when asking someone to marry you carries the connotation of gaining some power over her. Mano a mano would be "my power against yours".

Mano a mano por el hermano sound catchy as a slogan, but those people would be actually working "hombro con hombro" and not "mano a mano".

  • Thank you to the both of you (Diego and @Ustanak) for your replies! I was sceptical of this person's claim to begin with. Mar 17, 2016 at 21:10

I don't know if that comes from hermano. Actually, it's just the term for unarmed combat. (Of course, widely used.)
However, when it comes to competition stuff, the term is plenty used.

The other way that mano a mano is taken is with the well-known one face to face.

For those who ever played video games, mano a mano is often used.

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