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Gestures are a form of body language or non-verbal communication. Although some gestures, such as the ubiquitous act of pointing, differ little from one place to another, most gestures do not have invariable or universal meanings, having specific connotations only in certain cultures. Different types of gestures are distinguished. The most famous type of gestures are the so-called emblems or quotable gestures (see the examples below). These are culture specific gestures that can be used as replacement for words. Communities have repertoires of such gestures. A single emblematic gesture can have very different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to highly offensive.
Another type of gestures are the ones we use when we speak. These gestures are closely coordinated with speech. The meaningful part of the gesture is temporally synchronized with the co-expressive words. For example, a gesture that depicts the act of throwing will be synchronous with the word 'threw' in the utterance "and then he threw the ball right into the window." Other gestures like the so-called beat gestures, are used in conjunction with speech, keeping time with the rhythm of speech and to emphasize certain words or phrases. These types of gestures are integrally connected to speech and thought processes.
- 1 Social significance
- 2 Using one hand
- 2.1 Approximation
- 2.2 Aún hay más (there's still more)
- 2.3 Good Luck
- 2.4 Beckoning sign
- 2.5 Benediction and blessing
- 2.6 "Biting one's thumb"
- 2.7 Blah-blah
- 2.8 Bunny ears
- 2.9 Check, please
- 2.10 Clenched fist
- 2.11 Clinton thumb
- 2.12 Cuckoo sign
- 2.13 Curwen (Kodály) hand signs
- 2.14 Cut it out
- 2.15 Fig sign
- 2.16 Finger snap
- 2.17 What the Fuck!!
- 2.18 "Nose Goes"
- 2.19 Gig 'em Aggies
- 2.20 Guns Up
- 2.21 "Hanging"
- 2.22 Hook 'em Horns
- 2.23 Horns
- 2.24 How sad
- 2.25 I-love-you sign
- 2.26 Index finger
- 2.27 I'm watching (you)
- 2.28 Knocking on wood
- 2.29 Loser
- 2.30 Middle finger
- 2.31 Money sign
- 2.32 Okay
- 2.33 Moutza (palm of hand)
- 2.34 Patience
- 2.35 Pointing
- 2.36 Pound fist or Fist pound
- 2.37 Raising a hand
- 2.38 Salute
- 2.39 Shaka
- 2.40 Shocker
- 2.41 Shush
- 2.42 Shut Mah [=my] Mouth
- 2.43 "Thanks!" salute
- 2.44 Three middle fingers
- 2.45 Serbian three fingers
- 2.46 Thumbs up, thumbs down
- 2.47 Tsk-tsk
- 2.48 Talk to the hand
- 2.49 Throat slash
- 2.50 Thumbing the nose
- 2.51 V sign
- 2.52 Vulcan salute
- 2.53 Wanker
- 2.54 Wave
- 2.55 Whoop-Dee-Doo
- 3 Using two hands
- 4 Hand with body gestures
- 4.1 Bent elbow
- 4.2 Biting one's thumb
- 4.3 Biting one's hand
- 4.4 Bad Smell/Something Stinks
- 4.5 Bowing, kneeling, kowtowing
- 4.6 Choking sign
- 4.7 Crossing oneself
- 4.8 Cutthroat
- 4.9 Drinking sign
- 4.10 Flipping the fingers out from under the chin
- 4.11 Facepalm
- 4.12 Hand over heart
- 4.13 My eye
- 4.14 Nonsense
- 4.15 Nose thumbing
- 4.16 Na Na Na Na Na
- 4.17 Over the head
- 4.18 Screwing the forehead
- 4.19 Suck it
- 4.20 Eat me (out) / EMO (Lagnar)
- 4.21 Touched / screw loose
- 4.22 Twisting the cheek
- 4.23 "Wiping" one's forehead
- 4.24 Polishing one's fingernails
- 5 Body and facial gestures
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Social significance[edit | edit source]
Religious and spiritual gestures are also common, such as the Christian sign of the cross. In Hinduism and Buddhism, a mudra (Sanskrit, meaning either "posture" or "currency" depending on the interpretation) is a symbolic gesture made with the hand or fingers. Each mudra has a specific meaning, playing a central role in Hindu and Buddhist iconography. An example is the Vitarka mudra, the gesture of discussion and transmission of Buddhist teaching. It is done by joining the tips of the thumb and the index together, while keeping the other fingers straight.
Using one hand[edit | edit source]
Approximation[edit | edit source]
The "approximation" gesture is performed by holding the hand horizontally, palm down, with the fingers forward or spread, and then tilting the hand to the left and to the right. It indicates that a number or a statement is to be taken approximatively.
Likewise, the gesture, with a gentle rocking left-right movement, is understood to mean "so-so", (or, not too good, not too bad) a response one might give to the question, "How's it going with you?" A similar use is to indicate that an event is equally likely to end in one of two ways—a way of saying, "It could go either way." In both scenarios, the rocking motion is similar to the motion of a balance scale or seesaw.
Aún hay más (there's still more)[edit | edit source]
In Mexico, television presenter Raul Velasco prominently used in his program Siempre en Domingo (Always on Sunday) a hand gesture that is commonly used by floor directors of television programs in North America to indicate to presenters the need for a commercial break. The gesture involves using the thumb and index finger to represent a letter "C". Usually, the gesture occurs behind the cameras, but Velasco used it in front of them, most often saying "Aún hay más" (There's still more to come) while using the gesture. As an indirect result, Mexicans adopted the gesture in common cultural use to signal the need to interrupt whatever the speaker is doing and request a break from a listener. The gesture's use is widespread in Mexico and, due to "Siempre en Domingo's" popularity across the continent, is used to a lesser extent in the rest of Latin America.
Good Luck[edit | edit source]
Index finger and middle finger of the same hand crossed, with the middle finger crossed over the top of the index finger. It means good luck and can be multiplied by also crossing either the same two fingers of the other hand, or additionally the remaining two fingers of both hands (the longer finger generally goes over the shorter one), for either two or four sets of crossed fingers.
In some instances, crossing an even number of sets of fingers can be considered unlucky as the second set "cancels out" the first (for example, crossing two fingers on your left hand and two on your right hand would cancel each other out).
Beckoning sign[edit | edit source]
Index finger sticking out of the clenched fist, palm facing the gesturer. The finger moves repeatedly towards the gesturer (in a hook) as to draw something nearer. It has the general meaning of "come here", although it is normally seen as condescending or anyway impolite. It is sometimes performed with the four fingers, with the entire hand, or even with the arm, depending on how far the recipient of the sign is.
When performed with the index finger, it may have a mild sexual connotation depending on the circumstance.
In Africa, the Far East and many Spanish-speaking countries, this sign is given with all four fingers and with the palm down, while in Sicily the whole hand is waved, palm down, as if sweeping the recipient towards the speaker.
In the sport of mixed martial arts, the gesture is used to provoke an opponent to attack or to allow an opponent to stand back up from the ground without retaliation. This gesture is mostly used as a non-verbal way of saying "come on", "bring it" or "show me what you got". It may also be referred to as a taunt.
In the Philippines, the "come here" gesture has a meaning quite counterintuitive to most Westerners: the forearm and hand are held up over the chest with the palm facing toward the one whom is to be beckoned. The hand and fingers are then waved and curled in the direction of the one being asked to come. In much of the world this is readily interpreted as a "go away" gesture. This Philippine-used come hither gesture is the most often used hand gesture to indicate for someone to come toward the sender of the message. It is particularly used on the island of Luzon among Ilocano speakers.
Benediction and blessing[edit | edit source]
The benediction gesture is a raised right hand with the ring and little finger fingers touching the palm, while the middle and index fingers remain raised. Taken from Ancient Roman iconography for speaking (an example is the Augustus of Prima Porta where the emperor Augustus assumes the pose of an orator in addressing his troops), often called the benediction gesture, is used by the Christian clergy to perform blessings with the sign of the cross; however Christians keep the thumb raised - the three raised fingers (index, middle, and thumb) are frequently allegorically interpreted as representing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. It was shown by representations of Jesus as Christ Pantocrator.
In Sicily, this sign is used ironically to declare something or someone dead.
"Biting one's thumb"[edit | edit source]
In the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, Capulet's servant Sampson precipitates a brawl by biting his thumb at Montague's servant Abram. In the scene it appears that biting one's thumb in Verona is a non-verbal equivalent of fighting words, probably similar to the middle finger gesture. Sampson explains the meaning of the gesture to his companion Gregory, indicating that the gesture would have been unfamiliar even to the original audience of the play. The play does not describe the gesture in detail, but in performances of the play it is often enacted by placing the thumb upright (as in a "thumbs up" sign) just behind the upper incisors, then flicking the thumb outward in the direction of person the gesture is meant to insult. This is a traditional Sicilian insult meaning 'to hell with you'. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
Blah-blah[edit | edit source]
The fingers are kept straight and together, held horizontal or upwards, while the thumb points downwards. The fingers and thumb then snap together repeatedly to suggest a mouth talking. It is used to indicate contempt for a person talking for an excessive period of time about something that the gesturer feels is unimportant.
This gesture is also used in Asian cultures as a reaction to a "cold" joke; it depicts the cawing of crows flying overhead, which is audible because nobody is laughing at the joke (equivalent to the chirping of crickets in American comedy).
Bunny ears[edit | edit source]
The bunny ears gesture is a joke, and is common with young children. It consists of sticking up the pointer and middle finger, just like the V sign, and putting that hand behind someone's head, to make it look like the "victim" has bunny ears. It is usually done while a photograph is being taken.
Normally little kids do this, but older people have done it in pictures as well. The bunny ears joke is appropriate during lighter and casual occasions, such as parties, or on family vacations. This gesture is similar to the 'horns' symbolising cuckoldry.
Check, please[edit | edit source]
This gesture, understood by waiters around the world to mean that a dinner patron wishes to pay the bill and depart, is executed by touching the index finger and thumb together and "writing" a wavy line in the air, as if to sign one's name. An alternative gesture with the same meaning is made by touching the index finger and thumb together and drawing a checkmark (✓) in the air.
In Egypt, the left hand is held palm-out and the right, palm-down, is tapped against the left wrist to request the check.
In Japan, two pointer fingers crossing to form an X can also be used to signal for a check.
In the Philippines, one outlines a rectangle in the air using the thumb and forefinger of both hands.
In Thailand, one makes a circling gesture with the thumb and fingers pinched together- as if holding an imaginary pencil and making imaginary scribbles on a piece of paper. Sometimes the opposite palm is used as the 'paper' - this is common in South Africa.
Clenched fist[edit | edit source]
A clenched fist is used as a gesture of defiance by a number of groups. It is usually considered to be hostile, yet without any sexual, scatological, or notionally offensive connotations. It is especially associated with Communists and with other nationalist or ethnic revolutionary or would-be revolutionary movements, and with the Black Power movements of the 1960s in the United States. When singing The Internationale, the Marxist anthem, it is customary to make this gesture. A clenched fist raised quickly up and down and then punched in some direction also signifies a military call for a heavy weapons team to close on the gesturer or to move or open fire in the direction indicated by the punch. In US military, the right fist raised up with a straight arm, with the finger side towards the receiver, is an order for the person to stop immediately—to "freeze". American Football referees use a raised fist to indicate that a team faces fourth down. This gesture can also be used to mean "I am angered or offended by what you have done."
Clinton thumb[edit | edit source]
The gesture dubbed the "Clinton thumb" after its most famous user, Bill Clinton, is used by politicians to provide emphasis in speeches without pointing the finger. This gesture has the thumb leaning against the thumbside portion of the index finger, which is part of a closed fist. It does not exhibit the anger of the clenched fist or pointing finger, and so is thought to be less threatening. This gesture was likely adopted by Clinton from John F. Kennedy, who can be seen using it in many speeches during his political career.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It is often used in extemporaneous speech and debate, as a tool for emphasizing points.
Cuckoo sign[edit | edit source]
A gesture made by closing one's fist, extending the index finger, and circling it around one's ear or temple for several seconds. This gesture is used to indicate that someone is speaking nonsense or is crazy (more colloquially, this is described as being cuckoo). The "cuckoo" sign is well-known in the United States and Canada. In European countries tapping the temple with the index finger (see below) often has the same meaning.
Curwen (Kodály) hand signs[edit | edit source]
- See also: Kodály Method
Named after John Curwen, and largely defined by Zoltán Kodály, The Curwen Hand Signs are a way of representing musical notes by holding the hand in a certain position for each note. The basic concept of using gestures to represent notes is quite ancient, however near the end of the 19th century, the concept was formalized as a standard teaching method. Curwen Hand Signs are featured in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Cut it out[edit | edit source]
Made famous by Dave Coulier on the children's television show Out of Control (and subsequently on the more popular TV series Full House), this gesture implies that one would like someone to stop doing whatever it is that they are doing, typically because it is destructive or annoying. It is a combination of three gestures each meant to emphasize one word of the phrase, which Coulier frequently emphasizes by speaking each word as he performs the corresponding gesture. It is given by first creating a scissors using your middle and index fingers ("cut"), followed by a generic "point" at the target ("it"), and finally finished with a single thumbs up retracted back to point behind oneself ("out", derived from a gesture baseball umpires may use to indicate a player is out).
Fig sign[edit | edit source]
The "fig sign" is a gesture made with the hand and fingers curled and the thumb thrust between the middle and index fingers, or, rarely, the middle and ring fingers, forming the fist so that the thumb partly pokes out. In some areas of the world, the gesture is considered a good luck charm, in others it is considered an obscene gesture, and in still others it is used in the "I've got your nose!" child's game. This gesture is also the letter "T" in the American Sign Language alphabet. In International Sign, which otherwise uses the same manual alphabet, "T" has been modified to avoid possible offense.
In ancient Rome, this gesture was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil. Although this usage has survived in Portugal and Brazil, where carved images of hands in this gesture are used in good luck talismans, in many other cultures, such as Greece, Indonesia, Turkey, Cyprus and Russia, the sign has come to have an insulting meaning roughly equivalent to "screw you", based on the thumb being seen as representing a clitoris or sexual intercourse. In modern Russia this gesture is used mostly by kids with the meaning "screw you/no way". The same meaning is expressed by adults either with bent elbow (rude, very emphatic, non-classy), or with a "finger" (used mostly by city dwellers). The "finger" made it to Russian gesture language from Western movies.
In some Balkan countries, particularly in the regions of Bosnia, Serbia, or Croatia, the "fig" sign is addressed as the "šipak" or "figa" (the most common use in Croatia), having the same connotation. In both contrast and comparison to the modern Russian "screw you/no way" meaning of the gesture, the sign is used, almost exclusively in situations aimed at being comical, to mean "nothing". For example, if one was to ask another person, usually a close affiliate, what they are to receive, either as a gift or something that the person expects the affiliate to give them, the affiliate would then form the šipak and present it in front of the other person (sometimes saying "šipak" as well). While the modern Russian meaning is almost exclusively used among children, the gesture's meaning amongst the certain Balkan regions are used by, but not limited to, children, as adults have also been known to use the gesture either with another adult or with a child (usually their own) in a comical manner.
In Turkey, taking that fist, placing it in the left hand and then pushing it out to make a slapping sound with the wrist of the right hand is even more offensive, and is usually accompanied by a string of obscenities. These gestures are often seen at football games.
The gesture is also used in a trick played by adults and parents, with the intention of convincing their child that his or her nose has been taken away. Someone, usually an adult, grabs at the child's nose and forms the fig sign, exclaiming, "I've got your nose, I've got your nose!" The thumb is supposed to be the child's removed nose.
Many neopagans use this gesture as a symbol of the mother goddess to help adherents identify one another. In this context, it is referred to as the "Sign of the Goddess". Its counterpart is the corna sign.
In The Gnostic Mass of Aleister Crowley, this gesture is assumed by the priest throughout the Mass when his lance is not in his hand. It is a phallic device and symbolizes copulation, the fruit of which is a fig, traditionally appropriated to Jupiter the phallic sky god. The use of "the ficus" in the Gnostic Mass replaces the sign of benediction (mentioned above) used in Christian ceremonies.
Finger snap[edit | edit source]
One of several gestures familiar to modern people primarily through old animated cartoons, this gesture generally expresses a confident "screw you!" in the face of an adversary. The gesturer holds one hand out, palm up, in the direction of his antagonist and snaps his thumb and middle finger, generally accompanied by a high-nosed, "snooty" facial expression and followed by crossing the arms.
In some countries, particularly Great Britain, snapping the fingers is used to signify remembering or failing to remember. Snapping the fingers repeatedly at a constant rate is commonly used to signify that the person has forgotten something and is trying to recall it. This is often done with the fingers snapped close to the temple, as though literally 'jogging the memory,' and is associated with the phrase 'it's on the tip of my tongue.'
A single snap, sometimes emphasized by an arced swing of the arm, called a "Kephart Swing" is used when someone is reminded of something by another person, particularly if it is a job or a chore they have forgotten to do, or as a sign of disappointment or regret. Some people also snap their fingers to catch the attention of others. This is informal - some people may find it rude or even threatening, as it is common for the gesturer to snap his fingers very close to the other's face. In some cases, this may be interpreted as a face-threatening act or a sign of contempt.
In a classroom, children may snap their fingers to indicate that they are eager to give the answer to a question.
It can also be used when telling a story, to get a surprise effect. In Latin America this gesture is used as a way to say "Hurry up." The Beats (Beatniks) used to snap repeatedly as more reserved "cooler" applause.
Three snaps in the shape of the letter Z are used to convey superiority or disdain for all others. This is called a "Z snap". This has even been expanded to include other letters, such as a W or N.
What the Fuck!![edit | edit source]
This gesture involves bringing all fingers together and squezzing your finger tips tightley together. After you must signify to person directed to by a flick in the wrist, you can either apply this hand guesture with either one or two hands. This is commonley used as a sign to eat in India, but across eastern Europe and some parts of Italy this is a gesture used to tell someone to Fuck off, usually because the person is being destructive or annoying. In Europe, when referring to someone and making this symbol it means they are inferurated, or want to fight about a perticular problem.
Clement Moore's version of the Wisperin story first used the now familiar phrase, "If you want to start something, just give me the sign...," in which The Don, upon discovery, made this gesture and winked before vanishing into the night. Another interesting reference from the Urdu poem "The Fourth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:Part Three" is as follows: "When the Navab's gaze fell on him, that was the last sign he gave before dieing". This can also be seen in "The Sting" when a non-con-artist with a grudge nearly gives away the big con.
"Nose Goes"[edit | edit source]
The finger to nose gesture can also be used as very informal decision-making tool, and is popular among younger generations. The motion can be used to indicate that one is "not it," and is usually used when divvying up chores or other undesirable tasks while in a group. The last member of a group to indicate with this symbol becomes the one tasked with completing this chore. "Tie breakers" vary by region, but can include touching an elbow with the free hand or taking a knee.
A variation of this gesture in Brazil involved giving the thumbs up with both fists touching in front of the body. As with "Nose Goes" the last to put their hands up performs the action.
Gig 'em Aggies[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Gig 'em Aggies
Current and former students of Texas A&M University, as well as supporters of the school's athletic teams, widely use a thumbs-up sign associated with the cheer "Gig 'em Aggies" (or simply "Gig 'em"). The thumb refers to a "gig" used for hunting frogs. It was created around 1930. While its creation is universally credited to Pinky Downs, a 1906 A&M graduate who was then a member of the school's Board of Regents, stories of its origin vary. The most commonly cited story revolves around one of A&M's major rivals at that time, the TCU Horned Frogs (although the "frog" of TCU is actually a Texas horned lizard). It was the first hand sign to be used in the former Southwest Conference, the athletic conference that A&M and TCU, along with other schools, belonged to.
Fans of opposing teams may turn the gesture against the Aggies by turning the thumb down, or turning it into a throat-slitting gesture.
Guns Up[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Guns Up
Students and alumni of Texas Tech University commonly use the "Guns Up" slogan and hand gesture as a greeting. It is also used as a victory sign during athletic events. The gesture, made by extending the index finger forward and the thumb up, was created in 1961 by a Tech alumnus living in Austin. It was meant as a way to counter the "Hook 'em Horns" commonly used by Texas Longhorns fans.
"Hanging"[edit | edit source]
This gesture is performed by holding a clenched fist at the side of the head, tilting one's head away from one's fist, and making a choking sound. It may also be accompanied by hanging the tongue loosely out of one's mouth, and rolling of the eyes back into the head. It is generally used to signify "what I would rather be doing". It can also be used to show suicide.
This gesture has been somewhat replaced by contemporary youth by mimicking a gun being shot at one's own temple or into one's own mouth, with much the same meaning.
However, on the 1970s television show All In The Family, Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker performed a variant on the gun pointed at one's temple gesture where he pretended to spin the cylinder of a revolver as if he was playing Russian roulette, placing the gun gesture to his head each time, before jerking his head to the side on the third time with his tongue hanging out.
Hook 'em Horns[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Hook 'em Horns
In college sports in the United States, the "Hook 'em Horns" (or simply "Hook 'em") sign is associated with fans of the Texas Longhorns. The gesture is an imitation of the head of a Texas Longhorn, which serves as the school mascot. It was created in 1955 by a UT cheerleader in response to the increasingly popular "Gig 'em" hand signal created by arch rival Texas A&M twenty five years earlier. It is one of the most famous hand symbols in US college sports.
Students, faculty, and alumni of the University of Texas are often seen to display this hand sign during sporting events, commencements, and other special occasions. They will often include the spoken or written phrase in conversations or writings, especially as a closing. The Hook 'em Horns symbol is the same physically as the mano cornuto gesture. They both have their origins in the imitation of a type of livestock, the longhorn on one hand and a goat on the other, though their meanings are very different.
The gesture is shown with the fingers pointed upward as a sign of support; if the fingers are pointed downward it is considered insulting to Longhorn fans (and thus is used by opposing fans).
In Major League Baseball, defensive players often use an identical gesture to each other to indicate the opposing team has two outs. The same gesture is used in American football to indicate a team faces second down. This gesture may be popular for indicating the number 2 because the fingers are further apart - making it easier to see that two (as opposed to one) fingers are raised when viewed from a distance.
Horns[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Corna
Some say that it is meant to ward off — or to bestow — the evil eye.
It has a variety of other meanings as well, depending on culture and area. In some places, it is a sexual insult, charging a man with being a victim of cuckoldry (this insult is most common in Spain, Portugal and Italy but is also used in Brazil). Due to Ronnie James Dio's use of the horn at live concerts, as a result of his grandmother's superstition that it warded off the evil eye, it has been adopted and subsequently used as a salute by fans of heavy metal music, often with a repeated forward bend of the wrist. If one reverses the extended fingers, one gets the "inverted heavy metal salute" which can be given as a reply to a heavy metal salute. In this case, the sign is known as "devil horns". The popularity of using the horns at metal concerts and festivals has meant that it has spread to non-metal concerts and festivals as well. Due to popularizations by fictional "metal-head" characters such as Bill and Ted (from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) and Beavis and Butthead, the horns have also taken on the more general meaning of "rock-on" or "rock out", i.e., a positive affirmation.
Also a common hand gesture used by the University of Texas at Austin as well as the University of South Florida.
How sad[edit | edit source]
This gesture (also called "Playing the World's Smallest Violin" or "The world's Smallest Violin Playing Hearts and Flowers") is made by rubbing the thumb and index finger together, to imitate the rotation of a phonograph record. It is used to show lack of sympathy for someone telling a sad story: equivalent to a sarcastic "break out the violins." A related gesture, in which both thumbs and both index fingers rub the adjacent finger simultaneously, is known as "Playing the World's Smallest String Quartet" Also known as "The World's Smallest Violin Playing My Heart Bleeds Purple Piss For You".
Specifically in Spain, it refers generally to money, and exact meaning depends on the context. Performing the gesture while talking about a certain person or business means "this person is very rich" or "this business is very profitable", while in another context it may mean "this is very expensive" or "what's in for me?".
I-love-you sign[edit | edit source]
Made using a combination of the letters 'I', 'L', and 'U' (or 'I', 'L', and 'Y') from American Sign Language. It is made by extending the thumb, index finger, and little finger while the middle and ring finger touch the palm. Ironically, this is the symbol used to curse someone in Italian culture.
Index finger[edit | edit source]
Made with the palm forward and the index finger up, this is a warning sign ("watch out!") to a particular person (in western culture). When made in a group of people, it is an indication that one wants to speak. Making a motion side to side with the index finger indicates the equivalent of "no, no".
Shaking the index finger toward the interlocutor and back several times, when used by adult toward the child, means "do not do this, I will punish you". This is known as "noo-noo-noo" gesture in Russia and in Israel, and as a "finger wag" in the United States.
I'm watching (you)[edit | edit source]
Is used by pointing the index and middle finger at the eyes and then pointing the index finger at the person. Usually used in a hostile manner to tell a person that they are suspicious of them and will be watching closely. This was used by Robert DeNiro's character in the film Meet the Parents and its sequel.
Knocking on wood[edit | edit source]
- Main article: touch wood
This signifies the neutralization of a jinxing brought on by mentioning an either hoped-for or feared result. The knuckles are rapped on a nearby piece of wood (or, jokingly, someone's head). Usually this is only valid if done on bare (i.e. unpainted) wood. One possible reason for the tradition could have been from an animist culture who believed that the knocking would release spirits to protect them. It has also been said to stem from a belief that any nearby evil spirits who overhear somebody speaking of good fortune which has come his way may send some bad luck to offset it; knocking on wood was thought to keep the spirits from hearing. Another possible origin is of the Norse God, Odin, who punished braggarts by striking them with lightning; by touching wood, the offender thereby acknowledges their foolishness and the threat of lightning is passed to the wood. It is also known as "tapping wood" or "touching wood".
In Italy, one knocks on iron with the hand in the corna horns position. The horns position represents the devil and by knocking it on iron it is a symbolic gesture of defeating or casting away evil. The use of iron possibly comes from the use of nails in Christ's crucifixion.
In Russia, this is used to indicate that someone being talked about is stupid (and refers to a joke about a Russian peasant).
Knocking on wood deals with protection from evil spirits or evil caused by jealousy or envy. The reason for wood is because Christ was crucified on wood and hence by knocking on it the person gets Christ's protection from misfortune.
"When Saint Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, visiting the Holy Land and seeking the True Cross upon which Jesus was crucified, found the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, the Cross was venerated by all the faithful in many public processions. Many faithful would come to touch the Holy Cross for blessing and healing. It was customary to touch the Wood of Life three times (as a confession of faith in the Holy Trinity). This act of touching the True Cross became the earliest recorded histories of 'knocking on wood.' Whenever the Holy Cross was put forth for public veneration, touching it, or as English translations render it 'knocking,' became common liturgical practice. Once the Holy Cross was transferred to Constantinople and placed in the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom (aka Saint Sophia), Christians continued this piety by touching or knocking on any cross or crucifix (wood was the medium of the day) for blessings and healings. This ancient tradition has been with us for over 1,600 years and has been a pious tradition to this day where people tend to touch anything made of wood ... but all interpretations of this behavior point back directly to Jerusalem in the 4th century CE and the True Cross." (Prof Anastasios Zavales Phd ThD, Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the USA).
Loser[edit | edit source]
The first use of this was recorded in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. This sign is made by extending the right thumb and index fingers, leaving the other fingers closed to create the letter L. Sometimes this is accompanied by raising the hand to the giver's forehead, and this is described in the Smash Mouth song All Star:
She was looking kind of dumb
with her finger and her thumb
in the shape of an "L" on her forehead.
Middle finger[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Finger (gesture)
"The finger" is a gesture consisting of a fist with the middle finger extended. It appears to be universally understood as "fuck you". It is certainly thousands of years old, being referred to in Ancient Roman literature as the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus. Performing this gesture is also called "flipping the bird" in countries where "the finger" is used. In other regions, "flipping the bird" refers to the raising of the middle and index finger with the back of the hand directed at the recipient. That gesture can also mean "Victory" (see V Sign, below) in some countries, which is not to be mistaken for the "Peace" gesture, which is done with the palm facing the recipient of the gesture, but in Britain and some other countries it is an offensive gesture, equivalent to "the finger". George W. Bush can be seen making the gesture while he was the Governor of Texas, while goofing off before beginning filming of a public address. This is also known as a one finger salute, or international salute. Former professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin used the finger quite frequently in WWE shows. He raises both of the fingers to the crowd as a way of saluting to them. Also, he gestures the finger at his opponent before kicking them in the stomach and performing the Stone Cold Stunner.
In the film with Rowan Atkinson, 'Bean', he unknowingly uses this finger gesture to say hello.
Comedian Dane Cook parodied the gesture with his "Super Finger" gesture, which consists of raising the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb on the same hand while lowering (or curling) the index and little fingers. It is meant to be a more "powerful" version of "the finger".
The middle finger is also used to represent the number four when one counts in the binary system using one's fingers.
When this gesture is made with the palm facing forward, it is known to Chaotes practicing Lovecraftian magick as the "Sign of Kish". Another Lovecraftian sign is the "Sign of Koth", which consists of fully extending the index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger, while the thumb is tucked against the flat of the hand.
Money sign[edit | edit source]
With palm facing upwards, the thumb rubs repeatedly over the tip of the index finger and middle finger. The ring and little fingers touch the palm. This gesture is meant to resemble the act of rubbing two coins together (alternatively the act of counting paper bills) and has a general meaning of "money", or "expensive".
Okay[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Okay
This is the touching of the index and middle finger (or just index finger) with the thumb (forming a rough circle) with the raising of the remaining fingers. In the United States and most of Europe, it means okay and is inoffensive (the ring signals a letter 'O' and the remaining fingers spell a 'K'). The okay sign is used extensively in scuba diving. It can also mean "0," or "money," in Japan. Vulgar meanings are found in other countries, but usually one has to turn the 'Ring' upside down (supinated to show the ring in front) like this example from Brazil. It is then a sexual or scatological gesture referring to the anus.
Moutza (palm of hand)[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Moutza
In most places, a palm raised towards somebody means "stop".
In Greece, the palm of the hand thrust towards somebody with the fingers splayed is an offensive gesture similar, but bearing less offense, to giving the finger. The gesture is known in Greek as "moutza". It originates from the Byzantine punishment of parading a chained criminal around town with his face smeared with cinder, or moutzos in Greek. An even more offensive version is achieved by using both hands to double the gesture, and smacking the palm of one hand against the back of the other, in the direction of the intended recipient. Both the one-handed and the two-handed versions of this gesture can be (and often are) combined with the term "na!", meaning "here you go!" or "there!",or "parta!", meaning "take those/this" or "na, malaka!", meaning "there, you wanker!" In Latin America, something similar is used. Except when the fingers touch the top of the palm as if one holds a baseball to throw a knuckleball. Usually when thrusted (bottom of the palm pointed to the person) to the person it means "fuck you." If the thrust is started from the rib cage then its generally meant to "fuck your mother." This gesture is highly offensive.
Patience[edit | edit source]
Palm up, index and middle fingers touching the thumb, remaining fingers folded against the palm, and wrist bending slightly, up and down about three times, so that the touching fingers move toward and away from the gesturer. This gesture is used as a reproachful and exasperated request for patience in response to a request to be served immediately out of turn or for something to happen faster than is possible. A Middle Eastern variation consists of combining the tips of all four fingers and the thumb into a cone facing upwards, generally with the hand partly upraised to between chest and face height. Emphasis can be added by bouncing the hand up and down a few times, to the accompaniment of the imperative "savlanut" ("Patience!") or "rega" (Wait!)
Pointing[edit | edit source]
The typical pointing with the index finger is a gesture used in many cultures. Some cultures use the middle finger (certain regions of India). Other cultures also point with the thumb, often when referring to something behind the speaker.
In Western cultures pointing directly with the index finger at a person is considered rude. A more polite way of pointing to a person would be to direct the hand in their direction, as if holding a plate.
There are many other ways to point, for example with the hand, a head nod or an eye gaze. In some Native American cultures, one actually points with the nose, avoiding the disrespect associated with pointing fingers. Some use lip pointing, for instance the Misquite in Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as Spanish speaking city dwellers in large parts of northwestern South America and it is also a common sight in the Philippines.
Pound fist or Fist pound[edit | edit source]
- See also: Fist bump
In Major League Baseball, players will sometimes pound fists after a great play, such as hitting a home run with men on base or turning a double play.
Also known as respect knuckles.
Raising a hand[edit | edit source]
Salute[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Salute
There are many forms of salute gestures, most of which are used to denote respect or obedience for an authority. A common military hand salute consists of raising the right hand, held flat, to the right eyebrow. Scouting organizations use related salutes. The armies of various countries adopt slightly different forms of salute: in the United States, the military salute places the hand directed outward over the eyebrow, like a visor; in the United Kingdom armed forces, the hand is brought to the forehead palm outward in military and air force contexts, whereas the naval salute is as in the US forces - the US forces derived their saluting habits from the Royal Navy.
One of the most infamous forms of salute is the "Hitler salute", which is performed by extending the whole right arm, palm outstretched and facing down, upwards into the air at approximately a 45 degree angle from the ground. Sometimes, this is accompanied by holding the index and middle fingers under the nose, representing Hitler's iconic moustache. This gesture is associated with Nazism and its leader, Adolf Hitler, as well as with Germany during World War II. It is occasionally performed to mock someone or something for perceived authoritarianism or bigotry. This gesture was based on the Roman salute, and it was in that capacity that it was revived by French Revolutionaries and later by Benito Mussolini's Fascist party.
In some countries, mostly in Europe, it is forbidden by law to perform this gesture, although this does not deter Neo-Nazis and white supremacists from using the gesture in public rallies. Even in other countries, it is generally considered taboo to use the gesture, and this partly caused the United States to abandon the similar Bellamy salute used when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, in favor of the current hand-on-heart gesture.
Shaka[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Shaka sign
[[Image:gesture raised fist with thumb and pinky lifted.jpg|thumb|right|The "shaka" sign is a common greeting In Hawai`i which surfers now use daily.
The "shaka" sign is a common greeting gesture that originated from Hawai`i, and is appreciated in California, and beach and surfer, and different parts of the world. It consists of extending the thumb and little finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled and with the palm toward self. In the Hawaiian culture it is often described as a greeting sign “Aloha (Hello) “, “goodbye“, "hang loose"or "chilax" gesture. It is similar to American Sign Language letter "Y", where a fist is also made with only the thumb and little finger extended. The sign is often followed by waving as a greeting or acknowledgment. It can be used when driving as a signal of thanks to other drivers (for example, someone who stopped to let another driver onto the road from a driveway).
The "shaka" sign is also the greeting gesture for members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. which is the "phi" sign. All African-American Greek fraternities and sororities have hand greeting gestures.
But remember this is apart of a cultural greeting located on the islands of Hawai`i. 🤙🏽
Similar gestures[edit | edit source]
In Britain and Northern Europe the symbol is used as a signal for owners of older model Volkswagen vans when passing each other on roads. The silhouette of the hand reveals a "W"-shaped outline along the top of the hand standing for Volkswagen.
In China, it is also the sign for the number six.
A similar gesture is the "call me" sign, which also has the little finger and thumb outstretched, but then also holds it up to the ear, to signify a telephone. This is sometimes accompanied by mouthing the words "call me" or "I'll call you". This gesture is a common way to silently tell someone to call him or her, such as to continue a conversation in private.
In India, rolling the shaka in a winding motion signifies that the listener does not believe what is being said and that the speaker needs to "spool in the yarn from spinning out too far".
In American Sign Language, a "rolling" version of this sign indicates the activity "play", often used by non-verbal people (e.g. pre-speech children) to ask if one wants to play or to indicate that the signer wishes to play.
Shocker[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Shocker (hand gesture)
[[Image:shocker example.jpg|thumb|right|Example of the shocker.|link=Special:FilePath/Shocker_example.jpg]] The "shocker" is a crude gesture occasionally found in North America. It involves touching the ring finger to the palm, extending the thumb and extending the middle and pointer fingers while touching them together. This represents the act of putting the index and middle fingers in the vagina and the little finger in the anus to surprise or "shock" the recipient. This sign is sometimes used in candid photographs to shock the photographer by making them think of the original meaning of the sign. Common Mnemonic devices to explain this are "two in the pink, one in the stink" "two in the clit, one in the shit" "two in the goo, one in the poo" and so forth. It is often confused with other similar gestures, such as the "pitchfork" gesture used by fans of Arizona State University or the "Cougar Paw" used by fans of the University of Houston. Conversely, the shocker gesture itself rapidly became popular at Wichita State University sporting events, due to the school's sports teams having been known as the Shockers (as in "shocks of wheat") long before the gesture became popular. In the current Wichita State version of the gesture, the thumb does not cover the ring finger, but is extended outward from the palm.
Shush[edit | edit source]
This gesture is used to demand or request silence from those to whom it is directed. The index finger of one hand is extended, with the remaining fingers curled toward the palm with the thumb forming a fist. The index finger is placed vertically in front of the lips. Often, the lips will be formed as if to make a "shh" sound, whether or not a sound is made.
An alternate gesture with the same meaning involves the thumb and forefinger moving horizontally across the lips, as if one would be closing a zipper.
To further exaggerate on the action, some place their index finger and thumb together, curl the other fingers towards the palm and twist their hand in a fashion similar to locking a door. This is done after zipping the mouth and while their hand is still at the corner of their lips. Some may also imitate throwing the key away so as to show that the person should not open their mouths.
This action of zipping the mouth and throwing away the key may also take on the meaning of telling someone that you will keep your mouth shut about a secret.
Shut Mah [=my] Mouth[edit | edit source]
This gesture is used as an acknowledgment of (and apology for) having said or done something wrong. It is associated with (or, reminiscent of) a pronunciation of the middle word, "my", in the dialect of the Southern U.S. ("mah"), as it might be pronounced by the fictional character Gomer Pyle, or by one of the Negro characters in the movie Gone With the Wind. Of course, all three words are unspoken, as, in some cases, it is important that the gesture be a silent gesture. This gesture is typically used in a case where the person regrets -- or pretends to regret! -- having said or having done, a certain thing, but where it is too late to retract or undo the utterance or action.
The closed mouth is covered by the palm of one hand, or the fingers or even fingertips of the hand instead (with the fingers straight and flat, parallel and touching). This gesture may be primarily indigenous to the Southern U.S. and may not be popular (or even used / understood) in other places. The gesture may be accompanied by raised eyebrows, and possibly even a wrinkled forehead, perhaps together with a slight forward tilt of the head. There might even be a bobbing of one's "adam's apple", by means of a "gulping" gesture at the same time, if the person can manage that complete an imitation of [acting like] Gomer Pyle.
This gesture is analogous to the Shush gesture, but unlike that gesture, [a] its "be quiet" message [or other "warning" message, if any] is directed at the gesturer himself, (first-person vs. second-person); and [b] the mistake referred to, need not be a verbal (spoken) one, instead it can be some non-verbal act that was committed, that turns out to have been an error.
The meaning of the gesture includes an indication, to a second-person, that the gesturer himself, (the first-person) realizes that some mistake has been made, and regrets the error. In some cases, such as speaking out of turn, the main "faux pas" or error in etiquette may consist of talking at such a time, or in such a way, as to interfere with the other nearby listeners being able to hear some other sound -- such as the sound of someone else's voice. In such cases, a silent acknowledgment of one's own guilt is especially appropriate, since it can occur promptly, and simultaneously allow the remaining part ("if any") of the other sound to be audible.
"Thanks!" salute[edit | edit source]
Another gesture familiar from vintage cartoons, this is performed by sweeping an opened hand from near one's brow toward the person being addressed, and expresses gratitude. It is adapted from American Sign Language, and alludes to tipping your hat or cap.
Three middle fingers[edit | edit source]
Gestures consisting of fully extending the index, middle, and ring fingers with the thumb and little fingers tucked together under the palm have had a variety of meanings over the years.
To Chaotes practicing Lovecraftian magick, this gesture is known as the "Sign of the Elders." With the palm facing downwards, the fingers closed (without gaps), and the right hand's fingertips to the same-side temple, it is used by the Boy scouts as their identifying salute.
In the United States, when the back of the hand faces outwards, this gesture is often used as a euphemism for "the finger." It is used especially when a jocular effect is desired. Originally, an accompanying verbal explanation was usual — "Read between the lines," referring to the common English expression denoting that one must read carefully to glean the subtle meaning in a passage — but this phrase is now commonly omitted.
Serbian three fingers[edit | edit source]
In the United States, the same gesture was independently adopted by students at Vanderbilt University and other supporters of the school's athletic teams. In this case, the three fingers are interpreted as forming the letters "V-U".
Thumbs up, thumbs down[edit | edit source]
A closed fist held with the thumb extended upward or downward is a gesture of approval or disapproval, respectively. These gestures have become metaphors in English: "My boss gave my proposal the thumbs-up" means that the boss approved the proposal, regardless of whether the gesture was made — indeed, the gesture itself is unlikely in a business setting.
The source of the gesture is obscure. Though a favorite of Hollywood 'swords and sandals' epics, where the "thumbs down" symbol means that the loser in a gladiatorial combat should be put to death, recent research suggests the meanings of the symbols have changed over the years. In 1997, Professor Anthony Philip Corbeill of the University of Kansas concluded that the thumbs up actually meant "Kill him," basing his assertion on a study of hundreds of ancient artworks. The crowds would point their thumbs "up", the thumb pointing to the throat which held a similar meaning to moving one's thumb across their throat. Thus, the "thumbs up" was an approval of the gladiator's request to kill his vanquished foe rather than a vote to allow the defeated to remain alive. Corbeill wrote that a closed fist with a wraparound thumb was the indication for a gladiator's life to be spared.
In Latin, the "thumbs up" gesture is called pollice recto, "thumbs down" is pollice verso. It is not certain that the contemporary gestures are identical to the gestures performed in ancient Rome. The current version was popularized by a widely reproduced academic painting by the 19th century artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose Pollice Verso depicts a triumphant gladiator standing over a fallen foe, looking up into the bleachers for the verdict of the crowd.
Additionally, Desmond Morris' Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution traces the practice back to a medieval custom used to seal business transactions... Over time, the mere sight of an upraised thumb came to symbolize harmony and kind feelings... The gesture's popularization in America is generally attributed to the practices of World War II pilots, who used the thumbs up to communicate with ground crews prior to take-off. American GIs are reputed to have picked up on the thumb and spread it throughout Europe as they marched toward Berlin."
More recently, these gestures are associated with movie reviews, having been popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in their televised reviews — the thumb up meaning a positive opinion of a film; the thumb down meaning a negative one. One or two thumbs up, often held over the head, may also be used by athletes in celebration of a victory.
"'Thumbs up' traditionally translates as the foulest of Middle-Eastern gesticular insults — the most straightforward interpretation is 'Up yours, pal!' The sign has a similarly pejorative meaning in parts of West Africa, South America, Iran, Greece, and Sardinia, according to Roger E. Axtell's book Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World."
Hitchhikers traditionally use a thumbs up gesture to solicit rides from oncoming vehicles, although in this presentation the arm is generally outstretched with the palm and closed fingers facing the motorist. People who have the genetic ability to bend the tip of their thumb backwards are said to have "hitchhiker's thumb," which is a reference to the original gesture.
Additionally, supporters of Texas A&M University athletic teams use the thumbs-up sign, associated with the cheer, "Gig 'em, Aggies." The Thumb refers to a "gig" used for hunting frogs. The saying came when the Aggies had a big rival in the Southwest Conference in the TCU Horned Frogs.
Thumbs up and thumbs down are extensively used in scuba diving as commands to ascend or descend.
WWE Superstar Batista uses this gesture to signify his finisher, the Batista Bomb. The inspiration was due to Triple H using it in a Roman-esque betrayal of Randy Orton upon kicking him out of Evolution.
Tsk-tsk[edit | edit source]
Palm towards the recipient, all fingers closed except for the index, which alternates from left to right, like a metronome. In English-speaking countries it has a disapproving meaning and can be accompanied by a "tsk-tsk" sound. This is also known as "finger-wagging".
In Italy and Brazil it simply means "no", and does not have any patronizing connotation.
Talk to the hand[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Talk to the hand (expression)
This gesture is used as a physical interjection to express indifference or contempt and interrupt what someone is saying. The arm is extended with the hand vertical and palm facing and centred around the face of the other individual.
Throat slash[edit | edit source]
A sign made by moving either one's thumb or one's index and middle fingers across one's throat; the gesture imitates cutting a person's throat with a blade and can also imply beheading—either implies death. It is often used as an insult to imply one's (often athletic) superiority over another. This is considered a form of taunting. In some sports leagues, this can be called as a foul, such as in NCAA basketball, where making this gesture is, by rule, an automatic technical foul. The gesture is also illegal in the NFL.
The late wrestler Chris Benoit would use this move prior to executing his "swan-dive headbutt". Another wrestler, The Undertaker, uses a similar hand gesture prior to executing his "tombstone pile-driver".
In Japan, it is to show one's failure, and could also mean to be dismissed or fired.
Thumbing the nose[edit | edit source]
A sign of derision made by putting your thumb on your nose and wiggling your fingers. Originated in the 1640s in Vienna.
V sign[edit | edit source]
- Main article: V sign
The "V sign" is made by lifting and separating the middle and index finger with the palm of the hand facing the recipient (and the remaining fingers clenched). It was associated with the catchphrase "V" for Victory in World War II. It was associated with British prime minister Winston Churchill during World War II, and later, with U.S. president Richard Nixon. In the 1960s, it came to be known as the "peace sign", the gestural equivalent of the peace symbol. It is also the sign for the letter V in American Sign Language.
This sign is frequently used by the Japanese, most times holding up 2 "V" signs very close to either side of their face with a big grin during pictures.
In the UK, Australia, and some other countries, reversing the V sign so that the back of the hand faces the recipient is seen as the equivalent of giving the finger. In these cultures, it is often referred to as the "two finger salute". Popular myth supposes it was originally a taunt by English longbow archers towards the French who were known to cut off an English archer's first and middle fingers if captured.
Additionally, due to its use in an advertisement for the Australian made Valiant Charger (which ceased production around 1980) many people still display the V sign, in homage to the ad and the car, if that vehicle happens to be driven past. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
Vulcan salute[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Vulcan salute
The Vulcan salute consists of a raised hand, palm outward, fingers extended, with the index and middle fingers kept close together, and the ring and little fingers close together, with a "V" shaped space between them, and the thumb sticking out alone.
It was introduced by Leonard Nimoy in his character of Mr. Spock and is drawn directly from the benedictory gesture made with both hands by a Kohen (priest in Judaism, a descendant of Aaron) during the Priestly Blessing (Hebrew: Birkat Kohanim ). The Kohanim recite a blessing while performing this "gesture" and the other congregants respond with Amens.
This gesture is also known as the "Spocker" in allusion to the Shocker.
Wanker[edit | edit source]
- REDIRECT Template:Main
A loose fist (with all fingers forming a cylindrical shape) is made, and shaken up and down (or sometimes, back and forth) at the wrist.
The gesture is imitative of the motions of male masturbation. Its meaning is equivalent to the word wanker or implies something is of little importance. If directed to a person or group, who are not necessarily present, it is considered a display of contempt toward them.
In Portugal they use the wanker gesture but with the palm facing the ground thereby implying that the person is masturbating someone else rather than themselves. As such this has homosexual or promiscuous implications when directed at someone instead of the milder suggestion that they enjoy self-gratification.
In the United States, this gesture can indicate contempt, particularly indicating that the gesturer thinks something is a waste of time.
Wave[edit | edit source]
A wave is a gesture in which the hand is raised and moved back and forth, as a greeting or sign of departure. The orientation of the hand varies by culture and situation. In many cultures, the palm is oriented toward the recipient of the wave.
In China and Japan, orienting the hand palm-down and waving it up and down signifies "come here", rather than a greeting.
Whoop-Dee-Doo[edit | edit source]
Point the index finger up and rotate it. This simulates the waving of a tiny, sarcastic flag and is a usually used as a response gesture to indicate something is uninteresting or irrelevant. Similar to saying a sarcastic "Whoop Dee Doo" or "Big deal".
Using two hands[edit | edit source]
Air quotes[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Air quotes
This phrase refers to using one's fingers to make virtual quotation marks in the air when speaking. It is done with the Index and Middle fingers with the palm facing the recipient and the remaining fingers closed. This can be done with one hand or two. One famous example of someone using airquotes is Chris Farley's Bennett Brauer character on the television show Saturday Night Live. Another being Dr. Evil when he talks about his plans in the Austin Powers series. With the European quotation marks « and », the same gesture may be performed sidewise.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
Asking for the time[edit | edit source]
Common in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, a silent way of asking someone else what time it is. One hand is usually clenched into a downturned loose fist, bent at the wrist, while the index finger on the other hand is used to tap the bent wrist as if pointing to a wristwatch.
Warding Off Evil[edit | edit source]
Made by crossing the index fingers of both hands, with one finger vertical and the other horizontal, with both hands extended in front of oneself toward the source of 'evil'. Typically used as the sign of the cross to ward off vampires in movies.
This gesture can also be used jokingly as a means of saying, "Get back!", or, "No way, that's bad!"
Awkward Turtle[edit | edit source]
The Awkward Turtle is a gesture made after something awkward just happened, or when there is an awkward silence. To perform an awkward turtle there are three steps to take. First, place your hands on top of each other with both palms facing down and the fingers pointing forward. Next, move thumbs out and away from the hands. Finally, rotate the thumbs forward in a circular motion. The only catch is that in American Sign Language this gesture means sea turtle, not awkward turtle.
Batsu[edit | edit source]
In Japanese culture, the batsu is a gesture made by crossing one's arms (occasionally, fingers) in the shape of an "X" in front of them, in order to indicate that something is "wrong", "bad", or "no good".
Finger on nose and point[edit | edit source]
Simultaneously bringing the index finger of one hand to the point of your nose, and pointing at someone with the index finger of the other hand means 'you've got it' or 'you've hit it on the nose'. For example, if you are explaining something, and the other person suddenly makes a statement which demonstrates complete understanding - 'you've got it'. Used in Charades. Also used to some degree by Alan Partridge.
"Gills"[edit | edit source]
This gesture involves holding the backs of the wrists against the jawline (with elbows outstretched) and then waggling one's fingers. The gesture is often accompanied by a feminine-voiced "Ooooo!" which rises and falls in intonation. It is used when one would normally say (sarcastically) "well aren't you clever?", or to imply that someone is acting too posh for their station.
Hand-rubbing[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Hand-rubbing
A gesture whereby the performer positions his hands in front of his body, palms together, rubbing them together back and forth in a lengthwise direction, commonly understood in Western culture to indicate feelings of anticipation.
Scream[edit | edit source]
The palms are against the sides of the face, eyes wide and mouth open round. This gesture is depicted in Edvard Munch's The Scream. Also, Macaulay Culkin became famous for this gesture in the movie Home Alone. To imitate the painting, there may be a small space between the palms and the face. It is used to express great horror. With the mouth closed, it is used to express dismay. A similar gesture, placing the hands against the front of the face, little fingers parallel and touching, can express sadness, remorse, or speechlessness over any bad event.
"Shame on you"[edit | edit source]
This gesture involves pointing at a person with the index finger of one hand while rubbing the pointed finger with the index finger of the opposite hand. The rubbing motion is directed toward the intended recipient and is repeated at least twice. It is used to imply that the targeted person should feel shame.
In Flanders, Denmark, France and also in the German-speaking countries, this gesture is used in children games to indicate "we got you/we're smarter than you/we laugh at you", often accompanied by the mocking sing-song "AhahahaHAha!" shouted out loudly.
A variation exists where a person holds out their hand, usually at elbow level, with an open hand, the palm facing upwards, and fingers pointing in the receiver's direction and then using the other hand in the form of a fist, and rubbing it across the palm of the open hand as if stirring a pot. In some Middle-Eastern cultures, used mainly by children, this can also mean that receiver's plan (usually a prank or trick) has been foiled.
"Tea?"[edit | edit source]
Similar to the "time-out" gesture, here the vertical bar of the "T" is formed with the index finger of the opposite hand instead of the whole hand. It is used, primarily in Britain, to silently offer the recipient a cup of tea.
That's Gold[edit | edit source]
Created by Paul Harragon (aka The Chief) on The NRL Footy Show on the Australian Nine Network, broadcast on television in 2005. This gesture is performed by holding the left hand flat, palm up, and by placing the clenched right fist with no upwards pointing thumb on the left palm. It is generally used to signify that something is of significant comedy value, particular interest or importance. It can also be used to signify that a person is enjoying themselves. It is commonly used at NRL games by supporters, and was featured and still is featured in a segment on The NRL Footy Show starting in 2005 by Paul Harrogan.
Time-out[edit | edit source]
The "time-out" gesture—a "T" formed with the hands, with one hand with flat palm placed perpendicular to the other hand with flat palm, roughly in the center — originates in American sports. It is used by players to signal for a time out, or brief pause in play. In basketball, the gesture is additionally used by referees to indicate that a player or coach is guilty of a technical foul. In the Northern California Hyphy movement the gesture is known as "puttin' your T's up" and indicates a preference for MDMA , colloquially known as "thizz." The gesture was popularized by Hyphy icon Mac Dre, who was notorious for his use of MDMA.
In Portugal this gesture is used to say "Please give me some time" (or some more time).
Whatever![edit | edit source]
A gesture associated with Valley Girls. Forming the letter "W" by extending the two index fingers upward and touching the thumbs together at a 45 degree angle, this hand sign is used silently or in conjunction with an uttered "Whatever!" (pronounced with a slight pause after the first syllable, emphasis on the second, and drawing out the third syllable to a hard "r"). It is a sarcastic response dismissing whatever has just been said to the person making the gesture.
Wu[edit | edit source]
The Wu-Tang gesture is used by fans of the hip-hop group of the same name. It simply creates a 'W' shape with the hands by keeping the fingers together and pointing up with the palm facing outwards, whilst slightly interlocking the thumbs.
`X-Factor`[edit | edit source]
The X-Factor is a gesture used by many athletes (usually pro) as a way of "showing off" or gloating. It is done by crossing your arms so they form an "X" and raising them slightly above eye level. (this gesture is seen in the video game NFL Street.) In Japan and Hawaii, it is a signal to bus-drivers that you are not taking their bus. More importantly it means no in Japan. Also it can be made also by crossing fingers to mean not so big no, to avoid causing embarrassment to recipient.
However, if you are in the audience or watching America's Got Talent, that means the act is bad and that the judges should "X" them out. This variation uses fists. This was very heavily evidenced in the Season 2 audition episodes.
In the WWE, the group D-Generation X used to use a variation on this gesture, wherein the arms are crossed in the shape of an X and then thrown towards a persons crotch.
Hand with body gestures[edit | edit source]
Bent elbow[edit | edit source]
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This is performed in two parts: first, the right hand is placed in the elbow crook of the left arm. The left arm is then raised (fist clenched) at the victim in a smooth and continuous motion. While the motion is essential to the gesture, the choice of arm is not. This gesture is associated with Italians and is considered a more theatrical and physically exuberant version of the finger, and may even be combined with the finger. In Italian it is known as the gesto dell'ombrello, meaning literally "the umbrella gesture." It is typically used in two different situations: 1) to answer "no way!" in an extremely emphatic (and quite vulgar) way; 2) after a triumph against some unfair enemy, with a sense of revenge. The gesture is frequently made stronger by crying "toh!" or "tiè!", both meaning "take this!", at the precise moment the hand touches the crook of the elbow.
This gesture is also in use in France as bras d'honneur (arm of honour), where it is usually understood as va te faire foutre, still meaning "fuck off". In Spain and Portugal, it is a corte de mangas ("sleeve cut") or a manguito (a cover formerly worn by public services bureaucratic workers on the arms to protect one's sleeves from ink splatters) respectively and is done with the left hand on the right elbow, without the continuous motion. In Portugal, the iconic fictional character Zé Povinho, created by Bordalo Pinheiro, is usually depicted performing this gesture. This gesture, known as banana, was also once used in Brazil with the meaning of "fuck you", but it has not been used since the middle of the 90's. The gesture is sometimes used repetitively by fans at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia when the Phillies face the Atlanta Braves as a parody of the Braves' tomahawk chop, and this usage is known as the "South Philly tomahawk chop" due to the gritty reputation of Philadelphia sports fans.
The gesture above has long been known in Slavic countries and Greece in the above senses plus "fuck you", without any standard name. In Poland its name has been standardized to "Kozakiewicz's gesture", after Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz, who had shown this gesture just after he won an Olympic gold medal in the face of a jeering Soviet crowd during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. In the Balkans "the elbow" is called bosanski grb/босански грб ("the Bosnian coat of arms"). The origin of this name is unknown.
In some cultures it means "fuck your mother", and is sometimes accompanied by the words "your mother". In some other cultures, the hand is pumped upwards instead of swinging up and usually means "up yours".
Biting one's thumb[edit | edit source]
Biting one's thumb was an old rude British gesture. It is comparable to "the Finger" in modern terms. In William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Sampson bites his thumb at the Montagues (Act 1, Scene 1).
The gesture does not literally involve biting the thumb. The fingernail of a thumb is placed behind the upper teeth, with the thumb thus pointing upwards, and the thumb is then bent forwards, the fingernail making a clicking sound as it flicks past the teeth.
An equivalent gesture still persists in Italy.
Biting one's hand[edit | edit source]
In Sicily, biting one's flat hand or fist is a powerful threat.
Bad Smell/Something Stinks[edit | edit source]
Can be indicated two ways. One is made by pinching the nostrils of one's nose with the thumb and index finger. Gesture usually signifies a bad smell, and can be exaggerated/emphasized by elevating the hand above the nose while maintaining the pinch and spreading the remaining fingers out and upward as far as possible, along with tilting one's head slightly backward. The other way is to wave one's flattened hand in front of the nose, motioning as if to fan away a bad smell from the nose.
Can also be used to jokingly signify something going on is rotten, or an idea stinks.
Bowing, kneeling, kowtowing[edit | edit source]
A bow is a gesture involving lowering the head, or holding the hands along a person's body and bowing from the waist. It is usually used as a greeting to show respect, rather than acknowledging superiority of the receiver. Various cultures have different degrees or ways of performing the bow; China and Japan are particularly associated with elaborate and formal bowing. Bowing is also done by many groups as a ritual associated with prayer. In the Western world, women curtsey rather than bow. Kneeling and "kowtowing" are more extreme or elaborate forms of self-abasement before a social superior.
Choking sign[edit | edit source]
The standard gesture to indicate that one is choking is to hold the throat with one or both hands as if strangling oneself. This is recognized as a request for immediate first aid for choking. It is promoted as a way to prevent onlookers from confusing the victim's distress with some other problem, such as a heart attack, when the person cannot speak. The gesture is sometimes used metaphorically to refer to someone or something "choking" in the slang sense of failing at something while under pressure, for instance at an athletic event. It is also sometimes used with the thumbs touching and the fingers facing outwards or curled as a sign of anger or frustration and refers to the desire to choke or strangle someone.
Crossing oneself[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Sign of the cross
The "sign of the Cross" is the use of the right hand to touch the forehead, chest, left shoulder, and right shoulder, consecutively. It represents the Christian cross. (Roman Catholics crossing themselves touch the forehead, chest, left shoulder, then right shoulder; Byzantine (Eastern) Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians touch the right shoulder before the left, with the thumb and first two fingers joined — symbolizing the Trinity — and the tips of the last two fingers touching the palm, symbolizing the dual nature of Christ in one being. )
This gesture is used by Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and some other Christian groups in prayers, to perform blessings, and as a salute before entering a church or similar place of religious significance. It is also used in various kinds of Christian folk religion to avert evil or bad luck. In the UK, this gesture is colloquially known as "spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch".
Cutthroat[edit | edit source]
This gesture can also mean to "cut," "stop," or to discontinue a particular action, though this is usually done with the palm facing downwards and the index, middle, ring, and small fingers sweeping quickly across the throat. It can also be used to indicate something has ended or a previous process has concluded. Scuba divers use this gesture with the palm swept across the throat to indicate that they have run out of air. Airport ground personnel also use this gesture to indicate a variety of things (due to the loud environment), such as baggage offload has completed or the last of the passengers have disembarked. In this context, it can be understood to mean: "That's it." On Star Trek: the Next Generation, Captain Picard commonly used this version of the gesture to silently indicate that the audio from an in-progress communication should be temporarily muted.
Also used by movie personnel when having to signal a cessation of activity under silent conditions.
Drinking sign[edit | edit source]
In UK, the gesture for drinking (used for example as an invitation to "go down the pub") is made by putting the back of the thumb just below the lower lip, while the other fingers are close together as if holding an imaginary pint of beer, tipping it repeatedly. This gesture can also be used to imply that somebody is drunk, either literally or insultingly. In other countries, the shaka sign is used in a similar way, as described above.
Flipping the fingers out from under the chin[edit | edit source]
A traditional Sicilian gesture analogous in meaning to the raised middle finger. This gesture became the center of a controversy in March 2006, when Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was photographed allegedly making the gesture to illustrate his response to his critics. Scalia later claimed that he used a different gesture, waving his fingers beneath his chin, a gesture translating to "I couldn't care less."
Facepalm[edit | edit source]
This gesture indicates stupidity, usually a minor and immediately recognized slip of logic, judgment, or speech; and is performed by striking the forehead with the heel of the hand.
Hand over heart[edit | edit source]
This gesture involves placing one's right hand, palm outstretched and facing in, over one's heart. Male hat or cap wearers typically remove their hats and hold them in this hand. In some cultures, it is used as a gesture of respect towards flags or during singing of a national anthem. In the United States, it is also performed as a part of the rituals of the Pledge of Allegiance. It can also be used to indicate sincerity, shock, or hurt; in which case, a balled hand has the same meaning.
My eye[edit | edit source]
In France, Germany, Poland and other parts of Europe[How to reference and link to summary or text] it is common to point your index finger at your eye and even pull the skin under the eye lightly down to emphasize the presenting of the eye. The gesture displays disbelief or that a certain statement is made jokingly, similar to winking in American culture. It is also used in the Middle East as a sign of disbelief while bartering for items in a shuk.
In Japan, tugging at the eye, often accompanied by sticking out one's tongue, is used as a childishly offensive gesture (commonly seen in several manga), or to indicate boredom.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
In Italy, Portugal, Brazil and all Spanish-speaking nations it means "watch out" (POR:"olha!", ITA:occhio!,SPA:¡ojo!), and is used for warning or threatening. In Brazil, it is also used to signal skepticism.
In Denmark it can be a joking threat, often accompanied by the phrase: "Because the eyes are what you takes care for the most".
Nonsense[edit | edit source]
Performed by waving the palm of your hand in front of your face, it may be used to tell the other person that an idea he or she had was nonsense.
Nose thumbing[edit | edit source]
For this gesture, also known as "cocking a snoot", "giving the five-finger salute", "cocking a snook", or Queen Anne's Fan, the thumb is placed on the tip of the nose, with the remaining fingers of the hand extended and waggled freely. This gesture can be ended with a dramatic flicking of the thumb away from the end of the nose and towards the recipient. It is used in (gentle) mockery of someone. It dates back to at least the 18th century and is probably much older.
To add emphasis, the gesture can be made using both hands, connecting them by touching the little finger of the first hand with the thumb of the second, and waggling the remaining seven fingers. It is frequently accompanied by blowing a raspberry, or by sticking out the tongue.
Na Na Na Na Na[edit | edit source]
This gesture is made by placing both thumbs in their respective ear with the palms of both hands facing forward and waggling the fingers, can be exaggerated/empasized by exclaiming, "Na Na Na Na Na!" in a sing-song childish voice, or alternatively, "Nanny Nanny Noo Noo!", and is also frequently accompanied by blowing a raspberry, or by sticking out the tongue. The meaning is identical to thumbing one's nose, as playful mockery.
Over the head[edit | edit source]
A hand is extended and passed over the head with the palm facing the head. This is often accompanied with a whooshing sound, whistling or an exclamation of "Over your head!". This indicates that the receiver has failed to comprehend or notice something obvious.
Screwing the forehead[edit | edit source]
A finger is placed against the temple, as if pointing at it, and a screwing motion, as if making a dimple, is made by twisting the wrist. In Italian culture, this indicates that the person referred to is "crazy" or "nuts."
Suck it[edit | edit source]
Also known as a "crotch chop," this gesture is performed by crossing the outstretched arms across the thighs, putting emphasis on the groin. This was used by popular professional wrestling stable D-Generation X.
There is a variation in which a fist is made and shaken near the mouth while pushing one's tongue against the inside of the cheek, to mimic fellatio.
Eat me (out) / EMO (Lagnar)[edit | edit source]
The forefinger and middle finger are placed on opposite sides of the mouth, palm toward the self, in a "V" and the tongue flicked in between, simulating cunnilingus. It is mostly used as a dismissive retort, but can also convey a taunt. Popular in the 1970s. More recently it is used as a derogatory way of signifying a lesbian.
Touched / screw loose[edit | edit source]
Tapping one's index finger against the head indicates that a person or an idea being discussed is insane or "touched in the head". A similar, more elaborate gesture uses a circling motion of the finger at the temple or side of the head. This signifies that the person is "mixed up" or "has a screw loose". In Germany, tapping or pointing to the temple is used as an insult, often with the accompanying phrase "du hast einen Vogel." While this literally means "You have a bird," it is idiomatic for saying that you are insane. Also, in Indonesia, drawing a line across the forehead with the side of the right index finger denotes a similar meaning.
A variant of this one is the suicide. Make a gun with your hand and pretend to shoot point blank at your own temple. It can be accompanied with sticking out the tongue or a shooting sound for full effect, and often implies that the speaker is a "complete idiot". A more recent use of this is in the movie, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" where one of the characters, after being bored with a conversation, proceeds to aim at his temple and pretend to fire. Afterwards, he uses his other hand and does a reverse cupping motion outward from the other side of his head to signify his brains splattering out.
In Japan, a variation of this is knocking on the temple with the knuckle of the index finger. This is usually used in reference to the signer; "I'm such an idiot!"
Twisting the cheek[edit | edit source]
Thumb and forefinger are placed against the cheek, and a screwing motion, as if making a dimple, is made by twisting the wrist. In Italian culture, this can mean "I see a pretty girl" or that something is delicious.
"Wiping" one's forehead[edit | edit source]
The act of drawing the hand, generally palm outward, across the forehead (regardless of whether sweat has actually formed there) is a sign indicating many things such as "That was close" or "What a relief". It can also be used to express relief after some hard work, or to express feeling hot. Not to be confused with rubbing the forehead, an indication of a real or metaphorical headache.
Polishing one's fingernails[edit | edit source]
One breathes on one's fingernails, then polishes them on one's clothing. This means "I have done something really clever", but (at least in the UK) is not particularly smug. Also known as buffing one's nails or "nailbuffing."
Body and facial gestures[edit | edit source]
- Further information: Facial expression
Many gestures utilize only the face or body, without the hands.
Eye-rolling[edit | edit source]
Performed by rotating the eyes upward, it indicates condescension, contempt, boredom, or exasperation. This is often referred to as "rolling ones eyes to Heaven," as though wishing for a divine intervention for a rescue from boredom, frustration, etc.
Mooning[edit | edit source]
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Mooning is the act of displaying one's bare buttocks by lowering the back side of one's trousers and underpants, usually without exposing the genitals. Mooning is to taunt, protest, scorn, disrespect, or provoke. It can also be done for shock value or fun.
The "peacock"[edit | edit source]
Expresses superiority or domination combined with a certain degree of smug arrogance. Performed by pushing the chest up and out at the front as well as tilting the face slightly upward. This may be accompanied by motions of hooking both thumbs under one's Jacket lapel or suspenders even if they are not present.
Air quotes · Anasyrma · Articulatory gestures · Crossed fingers · Gang signal · Hand gesture · Head bobble · Jazz hands · Lock and fly · Manual communication · Mudra · Nod · Poke · Pollice verso · Puppy face · Raised fist · Shaka sign · Shrug · Sign of the Cross · Thai greeting · Type of gesture · Varadamudra · V sign · Vulcan salute · War Chant ·
|List of gestures|
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Images of the "Sicilian Fist Charm" in Sicily
- Pressley, Gretchen, "Get Your Guns Up!", Texas Tech Today, http://www.depts.ttu.edu/communications/news/stories/08/01-guns-up.php, retrieved on 2008-02-15
- includeonly>"Lady Bird Johnson Funeral - The Eyes of Texas". Retrieved on 2007-08-03.
- Pease, A et al. (2004). The Definitive Book of Body Language.
- 'Field Guide to Gestures' : NPR
- Intuitor: How to count to 1,023 on your fingers
- Cooke, Jean. (Jul., 1959). A Few Gestures Encountered in a Virtually Gestureless Society. Western Folklore Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 233-237. doi:10.2307/1497708.
- This fact is sometimes used to poke fun at Europeans and others in movies; for example, Mr. Bean's Holiday and Eurotrip.
- What does a "thumbs up" mean in Iraq? - By Brendan I. Koerner - Slate Magazine
- "The Stanford Daily"