Gestures are a form of nonverbal communication in which visible bodily actions are used to communicate important messages, either in place of speech or together and in parallel with spoken words. Gestures include movement of the hands, face, or other parts of the body. Physical non-verbal communication such as purely expressive displays, proxemics, or displays of joint attention differ from gestures, which communicate specific messages. Gestures are culture-specific and can convey very different meanings in different social or cultural settings. Gesture is distinct from sign language. 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 but connote specific meanings in particular cultures. A single emblematic gesture can have very different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to highly offensive.
This list includes links to pages that discuss particular gestures, as well as short descriptions of some gestures that do not have their own page. Not included are the specialized gestures, calls, and signals used by referees and umpires in various organized sports. Police officers also make gestures when directing traffic. Mime is an art form in which the performer utilizes gestures to convey a story. Charades is a game of gestures.
A-ok or Okay, made by connecting the thumb and forefinger in a circle and holding the other fingers straight, usually signal the word okay. It is considered obscene in Brazil, Turkey and Iran, being similar to the Western extended middle finger with the back of the hand towards the recipient; similarly, the hand shape in American Sign Language when made with the other three fingers slightly separated with particular movement and palm orientation can turn into an obscene sign. It is also an insult in parts of Europe, to imply the rudeness or arrogance of the recipient, often used when driving (though thumb and index finger separated to infer "small male member"). In Japanese culture a way of requesting money or payment uses a similar hand sign, with the palm facing upwards and the three extended fingers level.
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.
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". In Northern Africa (i.e the Maghreb), calling someone is done using the full hand. In several Asian and European countries, a beckoning sign is made with a scratching motion with all four fingers and with the palm down. In Japan and other countries in the far-east cultural area, the palm faces the recipient with the hand at head's height. If reversed, it's considered rude.
Before "bunny ears", people were given cuckold's horns as an insult by sneaking up behind them with two fingers (c. 1815 French satire).
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 Christianclergy 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. The hand's shape is said to partially spell the name of Jesus Christ in Greek.
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.
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.
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 (?())" in Japanese. The crossed fingers represent this sign resembling an "X".
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. 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.
Cuckoo sign, touched or screw loose. In North America, making a circling motion of the index finger at the ear or temple signifies that the person "has a screw loose", i.e. is speaking nonsense or is crazy.
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. In modern culture as bunny ears "the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains."
Dap greeting is a fist-to-fist handshake popularized in Western cultures since the 1970s, related to the fist bump.
Dele Alli Goggles is a modern gesture from 2018 made by linking a hand's thumb to ring finger and little finger to middle finger to make goggle like symbol. Can be used mockingly or to show superiority.
Eyelid pull, where one forefinger is used to pull the lower eyelid further down, and signifies alertness
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.
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.
Finger gun is a hand gesture in which the subject uses their hand to mimic a handgun. If pointed to oneself (with or without the "hammer falling" of the thumb indicating firing), it may indicate boredom or awkwardness in the sense of wanting to commit (social) suicide; when pointed to another, it is interpreted as a threat of violence, either genuine or in jest. Between friends, a finger gun can be a sign of acknowledgement similar to a head nod and hello.
Finger heart is a hand gesture in which the subject has a palm up fist, raises their index finger and brings their thumb over it so as to form a small heart shape. It signals a similar gesture to that of the two-handed heart. It originates from South Korean culture and was used by athletes during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games.
Hand Plateau is the extending of an open hand with an upturned palm to indicate an item or person. When swept horizontally it can signify an entire area. It is considered more polite than a pointed finger.
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.
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.
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.
Money sign. More commonly known as the "Pay Me" sign, this gesture id done by repeatedly rubbing one's thumb 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.
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. This gesture can also be done with both hands to form a bowl. See also Origin of language.
Raised fist is mostly used by left wing activists to express solidarity and defiance against perceived oppression.
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.
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.
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 suggests simultaneous vaginal and (unexpected) anal penetration, hence its name. 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.[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.
"Call me" or "I'll call you" gesture
Telephone. Thumb and little finger 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.
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.
Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down are common gestures of approval or disapproval made by extending the thumb upward or downward.
Tiny finger gesture is made with all fingers enclosed in the hand except the thumb and index fingers which are straight. Those two are put close to each other without touching. This is used to indicate a small amount of something or used when speaking indicate one is making a fine distinction when speaking. In the latter case, this is often accompanied by rotating the wrist back and forth slightly.
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, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
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 in his memoir I Am Not Spock that he had 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 (?).
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.
Wave is a gesture in which the hand is raised and moved left and right, as a greeting or sign of departure.
Zoltan is a sign of faith. It is made by arrange two hands in letter "Z".
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 Mudr? (namaste) is a sign of respect in India and among yoga practitioners. It is made by pressing the palms together.This is of Indian origin.
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.
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".
Bras d'honneur is an obscene gesture made by flexing one elbow while gripping the inside of the bent arm with the opposite hand
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 (Numbers 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.
Hands up is a gesture expressing military surrender by lifting both hands. This may have originated with the concept of exposing one's hands to show one is unarmed and not a threat, and the utility of this gesture is still employed in captures and arrests.
Hand heart is a recent pop culture symbol meaning love. The hands form the shape of a heart.
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".
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.
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.
Ogham: There is direct evidence for the existence of a system of ogham hand signals. The ogam tract In Lebor Ogaim mentions two forms of finger spelling; cossogam ('foot-ogham') and sronogam ('nose-ogham'). Cossogam involves putting the fingers to the right or left of the shinbone for the first or second aicmi, and across it diagonally or straight for the third or fourth aicmi. One finger is used for the first letter, two for the second, and so on. Sronogam involves the same procedure with the ridge of the nose. Placing the finger straight across the shinbone or nose for the fourth aicme mimics the later, manuscript form of the letters. Another alphabet, basogam ('palm-ogham') is mentioned which seems to involve striking the hand in various ways against wood. Probably the angle of the hand indicated the aicme while the number of strikes indicated the letter. The inclusion of these alphabets in the Tract shows that a connection between the ogham letters and fingers was still known at the time the Book of Ballymote was written in the Middle Ages. Further evidence of the possible use of ogham hand gestures comes in the form of various literary references to finger signs. Plummer (1910 p cxvi) cites several works which mention the use of finger signs, including the Life of Saint Brendan.
Open palms is a gesture seen in humans and other animals as a psychological and subconscious behaviour in body language to convey trust, openness and compliance.
PIV, also referred to as Sex, is often symbolized by making a circle with the index finger and thumb in one hand, and using the index finger of the other hand to "penetrate" by inserting it into the circle and pulling it back out in a repetitive motion mimicking a phallus entering a yonic. Variations exist to demonstrate phallus entering other sexual orifices.
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.
Shame is symbolized in North America by rubbing the back of one forefinger with the other forefinger.
Suck It is used to express superiority over another by forming an X with hands over the groin area. First used by wrestling group DX of the WWE in 1997.
T-sign: Made by holding one hand vertically and tapping the fingertips with the palm of the other hand held horizontally such that the two hands form the shape of the letter T. A variant uses the forearms in place of the hands. It is used in many sports to request a timeout; in cricket, it is used by players to request the review of the third umpire.
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", the gesture is used to signal that something is not worth the time and energy. It was popularized by the movie Clueless.
Made with other body parts
Air kiss, conveys meanings similar to kissing, but is performed without making bodily contact
Akanbe, performed by pulling a lower eyelid down to expose the red underneath, often while also sticking out one's tongue, and is a childish insult in Japanese culture. A similar gesture (accompanied by the phrase "Mon oeil", "My eye") signifies disbelief in France.
Anasyrma, performed by lifting the skirt or kilt; used in some religious rituals
Eskimo kissing, a gesture in Western cultures loosely based on an Inuit greeting, performed by two people touching noses
Eyebrow raising. In Marshall Islands culture, briefly raising the eyebrows is used to acknowledge the presence of another person or to signal assent. It is also commonly used in the Philippines to signal affirmation much like nodding is used in western cultures. Eyebrow flash is used for various meanings in other settings as well.
Eye-rolling, performed by rotating the eyes upward and back down; can indicate incredulity, contempt, boredom, frustration, or exasperation; can be performed unconsciously or consciously; occurs in many countries of the world, and is especially common among adolescents. It has been added to the Unicodeemoji as "U+1F644 ? face with rolling eyes"
Facepalm, an expression of frustration or embarrassment made by raising the palm of the hand to the face
Fish lips: sucking the lips in a manner that makes the mouth look like one of a fish
Genuflection, a show of respect by bending at least one knee to the ground
Hand-kissing, a greeting made by kissing the hand of a person worthy of respect
Hat tip or doff, a salutation or show of respect made by two people removing their hats
Namaste is a praying hands gesture usually coupled with a greeting and a head bow.
Nod, tilting the head up and down that usually indicates assent in Western Europe, North America, and the Indian subcontinent, among other places, but a nod also means the opposite in other places, such as Bulgaria When shaken once firmly, it is an expression of strong agreement such as "Indeed" or "Yes sir." When shaken quickly the person is indicating a desire to move along with the topic.
Orant, a gesture made during prayer in which the hands are raised with palms facing outward
Puppy face, tilting the head down with eyes looking up, like a puppy; has a number of uses, such as begging for something.
Putting a slightly cupped hand, with palm down, under the chin and then flicking the fingers out (usually once or twice), a common gesture in Italy for expressing indifference; became the center of a controversy in March 2006, when United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was photographed allegedly making the gesture to illustrate his response to his critics; a Boston Herald reporter misinterpreted it as "obscene" but Scalia later explained that he merely meant "I couldn't care less."
Shoulder Flick, using your fingers to flick off an imaginary speck of dust on your shoulder. Denotes that the effort that was undertaken was hardly worth the trouble entailed.
Shrug, lifting both shoulders indicates lack of knowledge or concern. Sometimes the gesture is a palms upwards from bent elbows motion with possible raised eyebrows.
Sampeah, a Cambodian greeting or gesture of respect made by lining up the palms and fingers together while bowing
Shush, the index finger of one hand is extended and placed vertically in front of the lips, with the remaining fingers curled toward the palm with the thumb forming a fist; used to demand or request silence from those to whom it is directed Can be silent or accompanied by an audible "Sssh!" sound which alone has the same meaning.
Sign of the Cross, used in many Christianity rituals, consists of drawing the shape of a cross over one's body or in the air.
Sucking-teeth, a gesture used in West Indies, depending on accent also known as a "stupes" or "stiups" signalling disagreement, an idiom of calling something "foolish"/"idiotic", or an annoyance.
Thai greeting, or wai, shows respect or reverence by pressing the palms and fingers together.
The "cut-throat" or throat slash sign
Throat slash, made by moving one's index finger, thumb or entire hand, held straight and with palm down, horizontally across one's throat; the gesture imitates cutting a person's throat with a blade, indicating strong disapproval, extreme anger, or displeasure with others or with oneself; alternatively, it can be a silent signal to stop something, i.e. to "cut" broadcasting.
Thumbing the nose (also known as Anne's Fan or Queen Anne's Fan and sometimes referred to as cocking a snook), a sign of derision in Britain made by putting the thumb on the nose, holding the palm open and perpendicular to the face, and wiggling the remaining fingers, often combined with sticking out the tongue.
Touching heads is a gesture to express positive emotions between friends, relatives, lovers etc.
Twisting the cheek. 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 that something is delicious; in Germany, the gesture can be used to suggest that someone is crazy
Woe is me, a melodramatic gesture of distress made by lifting the arm and placing the back of the hand on the forehead.
Exaggerated yawning, generally with one hand held to the mouth, is used to express boredom.
^Drißner, Gerald (2016). Islam for Nerds - 500 Questions and Answers. Berlin: createspace. p. 521. ISBN978-1530860180.
^ abNathaniel Zelinsky. "ISIS Sends a Message: What Gestures Say About Today's Middle East", Foreign Affairs 3 September 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2015. Archived at the Internet Archive from the original "But for ISIS, the symbol is more sinister than a mere declaration of monotheistic beliefs. As Salafi jihadists, members of the group adhere to a fundamentalist interpretation of tawhid that rejects non-fundamentalist regimes as idolatrous. In other words, the concept of tawhid is central to ISIS' violent and uncompromising posture toward its opponents, both in the Middle East and in the West."
^Nick Paumgarten (2005-07-04). "Whatever". New Yorker. Retrieved 2010.
^ abRickford, John R.; Rickford, Angela E. (1976). "Cut-Eye and Suck-Teeth: African Words and Gestures in New World Guise". The Journal of American Folklore. 89 (353): 294-309. doi:10.2307/539442. JSTOR539442.