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.
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.
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?"
The "bang bang" gesture is performed by raising the fist with the index finger and thumb extended. The index finger points at the recipient. The thumb is then brought down on top of the fingers. This imitation of the action of a revolver pistol is often meant to represent a handgun in children's games. It may also be used menacingly to mean "I'm gonna kill you", or simply as a playful greeting. The middle finger is often also extended to widen the "barrel".
Texas Tech fans use a form of this salute, which they call "Guns up" (fingers pointed upward), to cheer their team. Also, the "bang bang" performed with both hands was a signature gesture of professional wrestler Mick Foley while he was in his "Cactus Jack" persona.
Also, if the thumb and middle finger are used to click, and the thumb the pointed upwards to form the gun, this can also be interpreted as a greeting.
A two-handed version of the same gesture can be used to indicate sporting/business success or sexual conquest (frequently accompanied by a syncopated "pow-pow", esp. in a posh British accent).
It is also sometimes used by placing the index finger to the side of the head and rolling the eyes as if committing suicide, to indicate boredom or awkwardness.
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.
In Sicily, this sign is used ironically to declare something or someone dead.
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 is never to be done during a serious photo, such as a photo taken during a funeral.
A raised, 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."
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. It is often used in extemporaneous speech and debate, as a tool for emphasizing points.
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. (External link, with sample pictures: )
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 modern Italian, the gesture is called the mano fico, taken to mean "fig hand", as the Italian word for "fig" is fico (ficus in Latin). The obscene connotations of the gesture may partly originate from the fact that a similar Italian word, fica, is a slang term referring to the vulva. This sexual connotation may date back to ancient Roman times; some Roman amulets combine a phallus and a mano fico gesture. In Dante's Inferno, Vanni Fucci curses God with a "fig" gesture.
In some Balkan countries, particularly in the regions of Bosnia, Serbia, or Croatia, the "fig" sign is addressed as the "šipak", 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.
Also known as the Sicilian Fist in Sicily, worn as a good luck charm.
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.
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, 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.
It is similarly used as a response to a question to indicate to the questioner that their interlocutor cannot divulge the information sought.
In New York City, when referring to someone and making this symbol it means they are 'connected', or in the mafia.
Clement Moore's version of the Santa Claus story first used the now familiar phrase, "...laying his finger aside of his nose...," in which Santa, upon discovery, made this gesture and winked before vanishing up the chimney. 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, he placed a finger beside his nose [as women do] and recited."
This can also be seen in "The Sting" when a non-con-artist with a grudge nearly gives away the big con.
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.
Fans of opposing teams may turn the gesture against the Aggies by turning the thumb down, or turning it into a throat-slitting gesture.
This gesture has been somewhat replaced by contemporary youth by mimicking a gun being shot at one's own temple, with much the same meaning.
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.
Some say that it is meant to ward off — or to bestow — the evil eye. It is also a representation of the Devil by some Satanists. The gesture's origin is believed to be an imitation of the shape of a goat's head, which has many associations with the concept of Satan in Christianity Satan's Goat
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.
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?".
Made using a combination of the letters '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.
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.
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).
"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 "Victor" (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.
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.
In Greece, the palm of the hand thrust towards somebody with the fingers splayed is an offensive gesture similar,but baring 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.
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.
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.
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.
The "shaka" sign is a common greeting gesture often associated with Hawaii, California, and beach and surfer culture in general. It consists of extending the thumb and little finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled, and is often described colloquially as the "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.
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.
The "shocker" is a crude gesture common in North America. It involves touching the ring finger to the palm and covering it with the thumb, the remaining fingers remain outstretched and not touching. 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 commonly 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.
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.
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. It usually expresses such (real or fictional) remorse, and in at least one case has been used -- seemingly successfully -- with hopes that a traffic cop would issue a warning rather than a speeding ticket.
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.
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.
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".
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, Russia, 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.
In Italy and Brazil it simply means "no", and does not have any patronizing connotation.
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.
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.
The "V sign" is made by lifting 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. 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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
In Flanders, Denmark, 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.
In Portugal this gesture is used to say "Please give me some time" (or some more time).
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.
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.
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 vault jumper Władysław Kozakiewicz, who had shown this gesture just after he won Olympic Gold despite jeering Soviet public 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".
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.
The standard gesture to indicate that one is choking is to hold the throat with 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.
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".
This gesture is performed by drawing the hand, or a finger or two, across the throat in the direction of the hand being used. It represents slitting the throat with a knife, and means that the gesturer or someone else is metaphorically being killed. It is rarely if ever used literally to refer to death, though it is occasionally used as a theatrical threat ("I'm going to kill you"). In these contexts, it is sometimes accompanied by a harsh "kkkkkch" sound.
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."
Also used by movie personnel when having to signal a cessation of activity under silent conditions.
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.
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.
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".
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.
There is a variation to this where a fist is made and shook near the mouth while bulging ones tongue against their cheeks to mimic fellatio.
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!"