List of Hand Gestures and the Meanings Behind Them.

Single handed

Okay sign
  • A-ok or Okay, made by connecting the thumb and forefinger in a circle and holding the other fingers straight, may signal the word okay. It is considered obscene in Brazil and in Iran, being similar to the Western extended middle finger with the back of the hand towards the recipient; similarly, the gesture is obscene in American Sign Language when made with the other three fingers slightly separated
  • Abhayamudra is a Hindu Mudra or gesture of reassurance and safety.
  • Apology hand gesture is a Hindu custom to apologize in the form of a hand gesture with the right hand when a person’s foot accidentally touches a book or any written material (which are considered as a manifestation of the goddess of knowledge Saraswati), money (which is considered as a manifestation of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi) or another person’s leg. The offending person first touches the object with the fingertips and then the forehead and/or chest.[4]
  • Beckoning sign. In North America or Northern Europe a beckoning sign is made with the 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.”[5] In Northern Africa (Maghreb), calling someone is done using the full hand.[6] In several Asian and European countries, a beckoning sign is made with a scratching motion with all four fingers and with the palm down.[7] In Japan, the palm faces the recipient with the hand at head’s height.[8]

Before “bunny ears,” people were given cuckold’s horns as an insult by sneaking up behind them with two fingers (c. 1815 French satire).
  • Bellamy salute was used in conjunction with the American Pledge of Allegiance prior to World War II.
  • Hand of benediction and blessing. The benediction gesture (or benedictio Latina gesture) is a raised right hand with the ring finger and little finger 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.[9] The hand’s shape is said to partially spell the name of Jesus Christ in Greek.[10]
  • Blah-blah. 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. The gesture can be used to indicate that someone talks too much, gossips, is saying nothing of any consequence, or is boring.[11]
  • Check, please. This gesture, used 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 checkmark, circle, or wavy line (as if signing one’s name) in the air.[11] To signal for the bill in Japan, although not widely used by younger people, both hands are raised, with the two index fingers forming an ‘X’. This is to signal the ‘end’ of a meal which is called “Shime (〆((しめ))” in Japanese. The crossed fingers represent this sign resembling an “X”.[12]

Kennedy’s gesture seen here with Nikita Khrushchev.
  • Clinton thumb. The gesture dubbed the “Clinton thumb” after one of its most famous users, Bill Clinton, is used by politicians to provide emphasis in speeches. This gesture has the thumb leaning against the thumb-side portion of the index finger, which is part of a closed fist, or slightly projecting from the fist. An emphatic, it does not exhibit the anger of the clenched fist or pointing finger, and so is thought to be less threatening.[13] This gesture was likely adopted by Clinton from John F. Kennedy, who can be seen using it in many speeches and images from his political career.[13]
  • Crossed fingers are used to superstitiously wish for good luck or to nullify a promise.
  • Cuckoo sign, touched or screw loose. In North America, making a circling motion of the index finger at the ear or side of the head signifies that the person “has a screw loose,” i.e. is speaking nonsense or is crazy.[7][11]
  • Cuckold’s horns are traditionally placed behind an unwitting man (the cuckold) to insult him and represent that his wife is unfaithful. It is made with the index and middle fingers spread by a person standing behind the one being insulted. The “symbolism has been forgotten but the insult remains” in modern culture as bunny ears.[14]
  • Dap greeting is a form of handshake recently popularized in western cultures, related to the fist bump.
  • Eyelid pull, where one forefinger is used to pull the lower eyelid further down, and signifies altertness

The “fig sign” is an ancient gesture with many uses.
  • 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 (including Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Russia, Serbia and Turkey among others), it is considered an obscene gesture. The precise origin of the gesture is unknown, but many historians speculate that it refers to a penis penetrating the female genitalia (to which The Finger also refers). In ancient Greece, this gesture was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil. This usage has survived in Portugal and Brazil, where carved images of hands in this gesture are used in good luck talismans.[11]
  • The Finger, an extended middle finger with the back of the hand towards the recipient, is an obscene hand gesture used in much of Western culture. The middle finger presumably refers to an erect penis penetrating the female genitalia represented by the curled ring and index fingers.
  • Finger gun is a hand gesture in which the subject uses their hand to mimic a handgun. If pointed to oneself, it may indicate boredom or awkwardness; when pointed to another, it is interpreted as a threat of violence, either genuine or in jest.
  • Fist bump is similar to a handshake or high five which may be used as a symbol of respect.
  • Fist pump is a celebratory gesture in which a closed fist is raised before the torso and subsequently drawn down in a vigorous, swift motion.
  • The Rabia gesture, whose origins are unknown; used by the Muslim Brotherhood, its affiliates, and its supporters in Egypt since late August 2013, following a sit-in dispersal and fatal clashes at Nasr City‘s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.[15] The gesture is identical to a common gesture for the number four.
  • Grey Wolf salute is a fist with the little finger and index finger raised, depicting head of a wolf.[16] Originally used by the Gagauz as a gesture of salutation and victory,[17] the gesture was later adopted by the Grey Wolves and is associated with Turkish nationalism.
  • Handshake is a greeting ritual in which two people grasp each other’s hands and may move their grasped hands up and down.
  • High five is a celebratory ritual in which two people simultaneously raise one hand and then slap these hands together.
  • Hitchhiking gestures including sticking one thumb upward, especially in North America, or pointing an index finger toward the road elsewhere to request a ride in an automobile.
  • Horn sign is a hand gesture made by extending the index and little finger straight upward. It has a vulgar meaning in some Mediterranean Basin countries like Italy and is used in rock and roll, especially in heavy metal music.

The ILY sign, “I Love You”
  • ILY sign combines the letters ‘I’, ‘L’, and ‘Y’ from American Sign Language by extending the thumb, index finger, and little finger while the middle and ring finger touch the palm. It is an informal expression of love.[18]
  • Knocking on wood is a superstitious gesture used to ensure that a good thing will continue to occur after it has been acknowledged. However, it is sometimes used after speaking of a plausible unfortunate event, so that it does not actually occur.
  • Kodály hand signs are a series of visual aids used during singing lessons in the Kodály method.
  • Loser, made by extending the thumb and forefinger to resemble the shape of an L on the forehead is an insulting gesture.
  • Mano pantea, which is a traditional way to ward off the evil eye, is made by raising the right hand with the palm out and folding the pinky and ring finger. An amulet was found in Pompeii.[19]
  • Money sign. The thumb rubs repeatedly over the tip of the index finger and middle finger. This gesture resembles the act of rubbing coins or bills together and is generally used when speaking about money.[11]
  • Moutza is a traditional insult gesture in Greece made by extending all five fingers and presenting the palm or palms toward the person being insulted.
  • Nazi salute or Fascist salute was used in Germany and Italy during World War II to indicate loyalty to Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini and their respective parties. The right arm is raised in a straight diagonal position forward with the palm open facing downward.
  • Outstretched hand (with palm up) is a near-universal gesture for begging or requesting, extending beyond human cultures and into other primate species.[20] This gesture can also be done with both hands to form a bowl. See also Origin of language.

Doing the Pabebe Wave.
  • Pabebe Wave is a term coined by the Philippine media to describe a wave gesture in which a person imitates the waving gesture done by beauty contestants in the Miss Universe pageant.
  • Pointing with index finger may be used to indicate an item or person.[7]

a man pointing at a photo

Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme.
  • Pollice verso was a gesture supposedly used in Ancient Rome to pass judgment on gladiators with one’s thumb.
  • Raised fist is a salute and logo most often used by leftist activists.
  • Respect is a gesture made by extending the index, middle, and ring fingers of one hand at another person with the middle finger raised slightly higher than the index and ring fingers. It is used in restricted circle as a sign of respect and approval.
  • The Ring is an Italian gesture used in conversation to delineate precise information, or emphasize a specific point. It is made similarly to the A-Ok sign, but the ring made by the thumb and forefinger is on top with the palm facing medially. The arm moves up and down at the elbow. If more emphasis is needed both hands will make the gesture simultaneously with the palms facing one another.[21]
  • Roman salute is a salute made by a small group of people holding their arms outward with fingertips touching. It was adopted by the Italian Fascists and likely inspired the Hitler salute.
  • Salute refers to a number of gestures used to display respect, especially among armed forces.
  • Scout handshake is a left-handed handshake used as a greeting among members of various Scouting organizations.
  • Shaka sign consists of extending the thumb and little finger upward. It is used as a gesture of friendship in Hawaii and surf culture.
  • Shocker is a hand gesture with a sexual connotation. The ring finger and thumb are curled or bent down while the other fingers are extended. It uses the same fingers as the hand of benediction, but is unrelated.
  • The so-so gesture expresses neutral (“so-so”) sentiment or mild dissatisfaction (“meh”), or can describe an uncertain situation (“maybe”). The hand is held parallel to the ground (face down) and rocked slightly.[22][better source needed]
  • Talk to the hand is an English language slang expression of contempt popular during the 1990s. The associated hand gesture consists of extending a palm toward the person insulted.
  • Telephone. Thumb and little outstretched, other fingers tight against palm. Thumb to ear and little finger to mouth as though they were a telephone receiver. Used to say, “I’ll call you,” or may be used to request a future telephone conversation or to tell someone of a call.[23]
  • Three-finger salute (Serbian) is a salute used by ethnic Serbs, made by extending the thumb, index, and middle fingers. The international Boy Scouts movement also uses a three-finger salute, but forms it by touching the thumb to the first joint of the little finger, which is curled down to touch the palm while the three remaining fingers (index, middle, and ring fingers) remain raised. The Boy Scout salute is made both by touching the forehead and then gliding the hand away from it, and by raising it in a hand of benediction gesture. (The term “three-finger salute” is also applied in a joking way to The Finger (see description above) and also to the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keyboard combination, pressed simultaneously, to initiate a restart of a personal computer or to display a dialogue box showing all applications and processes then running.)
  • Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down are common gestures of approval or disapproval made by extending the thumb upward or downward.

  • Thumb up

    .

  • Two-finger salute is a salute made using the middle and index fingers. It is used by Polish Armed Forces and by Cub Scouts.
  • V sign or Victory hand is made by raising the index and middle fingers and separating them to form a V, usually with the palm facing outwards. This sign began to be used during World War II to indicate “V for Victory”. In the 1960s, the hippie-movement began to use the V-sign to mean “peace”, especially in the United States. It is also used in most coastal east Asian nations, in either orientation, as an indication of cuteness when being photographed. Examples are China,[24] Japan,[25] South Korea,[26] Taiwan[27] and Thailand.[28]
  • V sign as an insult is made by raising the index finger and middle finger separated to form a V with the back of the hand facing outwards. This is an offensive gesture in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.[29]
  • Varadamudra is a mudra for dispensing boons. It is made with all fingers of the left hand pointing downward.
  • Vulcan salute was used in the television program Star Trek. It consists of all fingers raised and parted between the ring and middle fingers with the thumb sticking out to the side. It was devised and popularized by Leonard Nimoy, who portrayed the half-Vulcan character Mr. Spock, and who wrote that he based it on the Priestly Blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש).
  • Wanker gesture is made by curling the fingers into a loose fist and moving the hand up and down as though masturbating. The gesture has the same meaning as the British slang insult, “wanker”, or might indicate a failure or waste in other countries.

Waving

Two handed

  • Air quotes are made by raising both hands to eye level and flexing the index and middle fingers of both hands while speaking. Their meaning is similar to that of scare quotes in writing.
  • Añjali Mudrā is a sign of respect among yoga practitioners. It is made by pressing the palms together.
  • Applause is an expression of approval made by clapping the hands together to create repetitive staccato noise. Applause is most appropriate within a group setting, to collectively show approval by the volume, duration, and clamor of the noise.
  • Awkward turtle is a two handed gesture used to mark a moment as awkward. One hand is placed flat atop the other with both palms facing down, fingers extended outward from the hand and thumbs stuck out to the sides. The thumbs are rotated to symbolize flippers.[30]
  • Batsu. In Japanese culture, the batsu (literally: ×-mark) is a gesture made by crossing one’s arms in the shape of an “X” in front of them in order to indicate that something is “wrong” or “no good”.[31]
  • Bras d’honneur is an obscene gesture made by flexing one elbow while gripping the inside of the bent arm with the opposite hand
  • Chironomia refers to the use of gestures to support oratory.
  • The Kohanic or Priestly Blessing – a gesture of benediction in Judaism, used (especially by those of Kohanic or priestly descent) when reciting the Priestly Blessing (Number 6: 22-26). Both hands are held up, palms toward the congregation, with the fingers grouped in twos – the little and ring fingers together, the index and second fingers together, and the tips of the two thumbs touching.
  • The golf clap, unlike applause, is a timid and practically silent clapping of the palms together, to silently approve of something. It may be performed when loud applause is inappropriate; however, it may instead be done in mockery or to display faux approval.
  • Hand-rubbing, rubbing both hands palms together along the fingers’ direction may mean that one is expecting or anticipating something or that one feels cold.

U.S Surrender with raised hands during the Battle of Corregidor

Hand heart
  • Hand heart is a recent pop culture symbol meaning love. The hands form the shape of a heart.

Jazz hands
  • Jazz hands are used in dance or other performances by displaying the palms of both hands with fingers splayed.
  • Mani Giunte is an Italian gesture used when expressing exasperation or disbelief by putting both palms together in prayer and moving them down and back up towards your chest repeatedly. Also known as the “Mother of God.”[21]
  • Mano a borsa is an Italian gesture, used when something is unclear. It is created by extending all the digits on the hand bringing them together with palms facing up and moving the hand up and down by the action of the wrist and/or elbow. It implies a question, such as “what do you want?”, “what are you saying?” or “what is your point?”, and it generally requires a response. This gesture can be done with either hand or both hands.[21]
  • Maru, (literally “circle”) in Japanese culture is a gesture made by holding both arms curved over the head with the hands joined, thus forming a circular shape, to express that something is “correct” or “good”. This is the counterpart of “batsu”, above, though its daily use is not quite as widespread.[31]

The Merkel-Raute
  • Merkel-Raute: Described as “probably one of the most recognizable hand gestures in the world”, the signature gesture of Angela Merkel has become a political symbol used by both her supporters and opponents.[33]
  • Open palms is a gesture seen in humans and other animals[34] as a psychological and subconscious behaviour in body language to convey trust, openness and compliance.[35]
  • Praying hands, a reverent clasping of the hands together, is an expression used in most major religions during prayer. The palms of the hands are held together with the fingers extended and touching or the fingers folded upon the opposite hand. This gesture is often made with the two hands held at chest or head level, the elbows against the side, and the head bowed towards the hands.
  • Quenelle: The gesture created by French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala was often associated with anti-Zionism or antisemitic sentiments. It is compared to the bras d’honneur and the Nazi salute. It is made by touching the shoulder of an outstretched arm with the palm of the other hand.[36]
  • Suck It is used to express superiority over another by forming an X with hands over the groin area. First used by DX of the WWE in 1997.
  • Victory clasp is used to exclaim victory by clasping one’s own hands together and shaking them to one’s side to another at, or above, one’s head.
  • Whatever – made with the thumb and forefinger of both hands, to form the letter “W”. Used to signal that something is not worth the time and energy. Popularized by the movie Clueless.[37]

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Author: lawrenceaaronmaker

Studying a BA Hons in Artist, Designer; Maker at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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