A common military hand salute consists of raising the right hand, held flat, to the right eyebrow. In the United States, the hand is slightly canted forward, as if shading the eyes so that the palm is not visible to the one being saluted. This salute is based on the British naval salute of the Royal Navy, which is still in use. The British military salute, used by the British Army, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force and the armed services of many of the current and former British colonies in the Commonwealth, is similar, except that the hand is turned so the palm is visible to the person receiving it, and is only used if the person saluting is in full uniform, including headdress. When performing a British salute the general method is the right arm is lifted for the brow via a long, full extended circular motion, however to end the salute there is a simple 'snap' down and the hand is placed back into the attention position, this is commonly known as 'longest way up, shortest way down'. The Royal Navy, however, prefer 'shortest way up and shortest way down.' The French Army salute is almost identical to the British Army's. The customary salute in the Polish Armed Forces is the two-fingers salute, a variation of the British military salute with only two fingers extended. In the Russian military, the right hand, palm down, is brought to the right temple, almost, but not quite, touching; the head has to be covered. In the Swedish armed forces, the salute is identical to that of the U.S. armed forces and the British Royal Navy.
In the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, British Army, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, Polish Armed Forces, Swedish Army, Swedish Navy and the Swedish Air Force hand salutes are only given when a cover (protection for the head, usually a hat) is worn. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force give salutes both covered and uncovered, but saluting indoors is forbidden except when formally reporting to a superior officer or during an indoor ceremony.
When the presence of enemy snipers is suspected, military salutes are generally forbidden, since the enemy may use them to recognize officers as valuable targets.
The most widely accepted theory is that it evolved from the practice of men raising their hats in the presence of officers. Tipping one's hat on meeting a social superior was the normal civilian sign of respect at the time Repeated hat-raising was impractical if heavy helmets were worn, so the gesture was stylised to a mere hand movement. It was also common for individuals who did not wear hats to "tug their forelock" in imitation of the gesture of tipping the hat.
The naval salute, with the palm downwards, is said to have originated because the palms of naval ratings, particularly deckhands, were often dirty through working with lines. Because it would be insulting to present a dirty palm to an officer, the palm was turned downwards. In Nelson's time, enlisted men saluted officers by touching a clenched fist to the brow.
When armed with a rifle, two different levels of formality are available when saluting. The most formal method is called "present arms"; the rifle is brought to the vertical, muzzle up, in front of center of the chest with the trigger away from the body. The hands hold the stock close to the positions they would have if the rifle were being fired, though the trigger is not touched. Less formal salutes include the "order arms salute" and the "shoulder arms salutes." These are most often given by a sentry to a low-ranking superior who does not rate the full "present arms" salute. In the "order arms salute," the rifle rests on its butt by the sentry's right foot, held near the muzzle by the sentry's right hand, and does not move. The sentry brings his flattened left hand across his body and touches the rifle near its muzzle. When the rifle is being carried on the shoulder, a similar gesture is used in which the flattened free hand is brought across the body to touch the rifle near the rear of the receiver.
The system of odd numbered rounds is said to have been originated by Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Navy in the Restoration, as a way of economising on the use of powder, the rule until that time having been that all guns had to be fired. Odd numbers were chosen, as even numbers indicated a death.
As naval customs evolved the 21-gun salute came to be reserved for heads of state, with fewer rounds used to salute lower ranking officials. Today officers with 5 stars receive 19 rounds; 4 stars receive 17 rounds; 3 stars receive 15; 2 stars receive 13; and a 1-star general or admiral receives 11. These same standards are currently adhered to by ground-based saluting batteries.
Multiples of 21-gun salutes may be fired for particularly important celebrations.
In addition, the right to style himself Highness (Majesty, which since its Roman origin expresses the sovereign authority of the state, was denied to all 'vassals'), a title of great importance in international relations, was formally restricted to rulers of relatively high salute ranks (originally only those with 11 guns or more, later also those with 9 guns).
Gun salute by aircraft, primarily displayed during funerals, began with simple flypasts during World War I and have evolved into the missing man formation, where either a formation of aircraft is conspicuously missing an element, or where a single plane abruptly leaves a formation.
A casual salute by an aircraft, somewhat akin to waving to a friend, is the custom of "waggling" the wings by partially rolling the aircraft first to one side, and then the other.
Saluting is generally prohibited in field conditions, as it could help an enemy identify officers.
The Roman salute is the right hand held flat, palm down and fingers closed, and the right arm raised at an angle of about 45 degrees. It was used by the Roman Republic, by armies of the Middle East (even before being adopted by the Romans) and South America at various times. It was also the historical civilian salute of the United States, from about 1787 to 1934, known since 1892 as the Bellamy salute.
When the Nazi party of Germany adopted the Roman salute from the Italian fascists, President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt instituted the hand-over-the heart as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States. This was done when Congress officially adopted the Flag Code on June 22 1942.
Because of its associations with fascism, the Roman salute is now rarely used outside of neo-Nazi groups. There are several exceptions; one is the Republic of China (Taiwan), where the salute is still used during the inaugurations of government officials. The salute is also still used by some Palestinian militant groups, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the swearing-in oath of the President of Mexico, the Basij militia in Iran, and some Maronite movements in Lebanon.
In many Asian cultures, a simple bow from the waist (rei in Japanese, panbae in Korean) is used, with many regional variations seen. The Japanese keep the palms of their hands touching the fronts of the thighs, but Korean men leave their hands straight down at their sides, while Korean women usually place their hands in their lap while bowing. A gesture called a wai is used in Thailand, where the hands are placed together palm to palm, approximately at nose level, while bowing. The wai is similar in form to the gesture referred to by the Japanese term gassho by Buddhists. A Chinese martial arts greeting features the right hand in a fist with the left hand open covering it with a slight nod of the head. Typically done from the shoulders with a slight bend of the waist. There is also a slight bow used only in paying respects to the dead.
In India, it is common to see the greeting ("Namaste" or "Sat Sri Akal" for Sikhs) where the two hands (palms) are pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed. In Thailand, the men and women would usually press two palms together and bow a little while saying "Sawadee ka" (female speaker) or "Sawadee krap" (male speaker).
The Arabic term salaam, literally "peace" from the spoken greeting that accompanies the gesture, refers to a low bow performed while placing the right palm on the forehead. Some cultures use hugs and kisses (regardless of the sex of the greeters), but those gestures show an existing degree of intimacy and are not used between total strangers. All of these gestures are being supplemented or completely displaced by the handshake in areas with large amounts of business contact with the West.
These bows indicate respect and acknowledgement of social rank, but do not necessarily imply obeisance.
Many secret societies develop gestures to signal fellow members. In 1830s Missouri, some Mormons formed a militia organization called the Sons of Dan, more commonly known as the Danite band, which developed a salute "whereby ye may know each other anywhere, either by day or night, and if a brother be in distress. It is thus: to clap the right hand to the thigh, and then raise it quick to the right temple, the thumb extending behind the ear."
A common kung fu salute involves making one hand into a fist and covering it with the other hand. There are considerable differences between different traditions as to which hand is made into a fist, and what the salute symbolizes, although it has been noted that unlike a handshake or an elaborate Western-style salute, the kung fu salute does not compromise one's immediate ability to defend one's self. In fact, it is often, perhaps primarily, used to salute an opponent prior to sparring. It may also imply "I am at your service." The clenched fist represents the warrior, the open hand represents God, the salute starts behind the ear with the fist hidden by the hand, then brought forward and revealed as a sign of mutual respect. The final symbol formed is a warrior under God.
After his conquest of Persia, Alexander the Great introduced Persian etiquette into his own court, including the practice of proskynesis. Visitors, depending on their ranks, would have to prostrate themselves, bow to, kneel in front of, or kiss the king. His Greek and Macedonian subjects objected to this practice, as they considered these rituals only suitable to the gods.
In countries with recognized social classes, bowing to nobility and royalty is customary. Standing bows of obeisance all involve bending forward from the waist with the eyes downcast, though variations in the placement of the arms and feet are seen. In western European cultures, women do not bow, they "curtsey" (a contraction of "courtesy" that became its own word), a movement in which one foot is moved back and the entire body lowered to a crouch while the head is bowed.
More elaborate gestures of obeisance are used in formal conditions. The Chinese language term 叩頭 (literally "bump head", spelled kou4 tou3 in pinyin and "kowtow" in English) refers to the act of deep respect shown by bowing so low as to touch the head to the ground. The full kowtow begins kneeling and sitting back on the heels, with the hands on the thighs. The hands are then brought forward to the floor in front of the knees and the body inclined toward the horizontal. Whether or not the head is bowed as well reflects the degree of submission shown — in martial arts practices, for example, the neck is kept straight, but in religious ceremonies the forehead touches the ground. A slightly abbreviated version was developed for use outside and by armed guardsmen, who would flip their long sleeves down to cover their hands, drop to their left knees, place their right hands behind their backs and left palms on the floor in front of them while bowing their heads.
In South Asia traditions, obeisance also involves prostrating oneself before a king.
Many religious believers kneel in prayer, and some (Roman Catholics, and, rarely, Anglicans) genuflect, bending one knee to touch the ground, at various points during religious services; the Orthodox Christian equivalent is a deep bow from the waist, and as an especially solemn obeisance the Orthodox make prostrations, bending down on both knees and touching the forehead to the floor. During Islamic prayer, a kneeling bow called sajdah is used, with forehead, nose, hands, knees, and toes all touching the ground. Orthodox Jews bow from the waist many times during prayer. Three times during the Yom Kippur service, and once on each day of Rosh Hashanah, Orthodox Jews will kneel and then prostrate.
The classic "corps style" salute is often known as the "punch" type, where the saluting party will first punch their right arm straight forward from their body, arm parallel to the ground, hand in a fist, followed by the more traditional salute position with the right hand, left arm akimbo. Dropping the salute typically entails snapping the saluting hand to the side and clenching the fist, then dropping both arms to the sides.
In the movie 1984 (though not the novel), soldiers marching on parade and the Outer Party members at a frenzied "Two Minutes Hate" wave both clenched fists overhead with their wrists crossed. A very similar gesture is seen in Pink Floyd The Wall, but there the wrists are repeatedly banged together.
In the films based on Tolkien's fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, the soldiers of the hosts of Minas Tirith in Gondor salute by holding their right hand in a fist over their heart with the enclosed palm facing inwards. This is often accompanied by a half bow or a tip of the head forward. This salute is not specified in the book.
In the film Spaceballs, the titular Spaceballs salute by slapping the left hand upon the right upper arm, thrusting the right arm upwards with fist clenched (with left arm remaining on right upper arm), then rotating the raised hand and wiggling the fingers. (This could be interpreted as an "up yours" gesture, quickly disguised as an innocent "hi there" wave.) Mel Brooks' character, President Skroob, gives the most visibly-detailed example of the salute early in the movie, complete with facial expressions. Later in the movie, he is seen giving the salute hurriedly, inadvertently giving everybody the "up yours" instead of saluting them.
In the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, members of the People's Front of Judea (Officials) salute each other by holding the right hand in a fist to the right temple, palm out.
In the film Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, characters such as Jimmy "The Saint" Tosnia use a system of saluting each other derived from their time spent incarcerated. When greeting visitors in prison they would each press a palm to the glass divider, the closest they could get to one other. They continue this tradition once released, often followed by an embrace and usually accompanied by the expression "Boat Drinks" (a reference to their ideal situation - drinks on a boat).
In the film Galaxy Quest, the salute is for a fist to be placed over the heart, accompanied by saying "Never give up, never surrender."
Two early TV performers established versions of the salute as their signature closings. Dave Garroway, the first host of The Today Show on NBC, used the open-palm Peace salute in the 1950s. A half-decade later, viewers of American Bandstand host Dick Clark would see him close his show with a military salute and the phrase, "For now, Dick Clark — so long." The salute and phrase has become Clark's trademark.
In the television series The Prisoner, the fictional inhabitants of The Village gesture farewell by forming a ring with the right thumb and index finger while extending the other three fingers and looking through that ring with the right eye. One then lowers the hand and says "Be seeing you."
On the science fiction series Babylon 5, the Psi Cop Alfred Bester character uses a variant of the Prisoner salute - bringing the ring up to his forehead instead of his eye - while retaining the associated phrase.
On the British comedy series Red Dwarf, the fictional character of crewman Arnold Rimmer invented several elaborate salutes such as the "Half Rimmer," the "Full Rimmer," and the "Double Rimmer". In the episode "Holoship", both the crew of the "S. S. S. Enlightenment" and Rimmer salute by holding the right hand up, extending the index and pinky finger, and curling the middle and ring fingers towards the thumb.
Another British comedy to feature the continual use of salutes is Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, this spoof horror 1980s television show contains the main protagonist, Dr Rick Dagless M.D., utilising dramtic salutes in several situations. For example he salutes his fellow doctors after a successful mission or children patients after he's saved their lives.
In Star Trek, the fictional race of Vulcans exchange salutes by showing the right palm and spreading the middle finger and ring finger apart; the forefinger and middle finger are kept together, as are the ring and little fingers, while the persons exchanging salutes often say the words "Live long and prosper", optionally followed by the name or title of the person being saluted. When the salute is between two vulcans the second may sometimes respond with "Peace and long life." rather than the original phrase. The fictional race of Klingons salute by striking the clenched fist against the chest, then extending the arm. In addition, a roman-based salute is used by the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe - a clenched fist is struck against the chest, then that arm and hand is held out straight. The arm is held parallel to the ground, rather than raised as with a roman salute.
The Nietzschean race of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda performs a similar salute.
In 3rd Rock from the Sun, the High Commander salutes The Big Giant Head by hitting the palm of his right hand onto his forehead, rotating the hand. The rest of the aliens salute by holding their right hands towards their foreheads with the palm facing upwards and fingers pointing to the right.
In Futurama, Zapp Brannigan salutes by raising his right hand clenched in a fist face down up to his heart, then extended face down up to his right eyebrow (as in a United States military salute), then extending the arm in a horizontal arc, as if flying away. All three parts are performed in one continuous motion.
On Power Rangers: S.P.D., the Space Patrol Delta cadets render the S.P.D. salute that's similar to the Latin American salute by placing their right hands across the left chest with the palm facing down for a half-second and sliding their right hands over their heart, clenching a fist. This was also done in Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger.
In Happy Tree Friends, Flippy salutes by shielding his eyes and then chopping downwards in a karate fashion.
In the anime series Big O, the military police officers salute with their left hands.