The middle finger, either as an icon or a gesture, is meant to be a symbol of insult or phallic imagery, expressing displeasure with the one to whom it is directed. According to an article published by BBC News, this gesture appeared as early as 419 B.C. in ancient Greece.
The middle finger symbol is perceived as a modern insult in English-speaking countries and elsewhere. Historically, this gesture was thought to have symbolized male genitalia and has been accepted for centuries as a negative or inflammatory signal. According to a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., the gesture has evolved beyond phallic imagery and is now understood to mean anything from general excitement to protest.