List of gestures  

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Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand. Plato holds his Timaeus and points his index finger to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms
Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand. Plato holds his Timaeus and points his index finger to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms
Pollice Verso (1872) by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Pollice Verso (1872) by Jean-Léon Gérôme

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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 Wikipedia pages that discuss particular gestures, as well as short descriptions of some gestures that do not have their own page.


Single hand gestures

  • A-ok or Okay, made by connecting the thumb and forefinger in a circle and holding the other fingers straight, may signal the word okay; especially as a diving signal.
  • Abhayamudra is a Hindu Mudra or gesture of reassurance and safety.
  • Apology. It is a Hindu custom, 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) or another person's leg, it will be followed by an apology in the form of a hand gesture with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the finger tips and then the forehead and/or chest. This also counts for money, which is considered as a manifestation of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi.
  • 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 (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 the palm faces the recipient with the hand at head's height.
  • Bellamy salute was used in conjunction with the American Pledge of Allegiance prior to World War II.
  • Benediction and blessing. The benediction gesture is a raised right hand with the ring and little finger fingers touching the palm, while the middle and index fingers remain raised. Taken from Ancient Roman iconography for speaking (an example is the Augustus of Prima Porta where the emperor Augustus assumes the pose of an orator in addressing his troops), often called the benediction gesture, is used by the Christian clergy to perform blessings with the sign of the cross; however Christians keep the thumb raised — the three raised fingers (index, middle, and thumb) are frequently allegorically interpreted as representing the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
  • 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.
  • Chinese number gestures are a method of using one hand to signify the natural numbers one through ten.
  • Clenched fist is used as a gesture of defiance or solidarity. Facing the signer, it threatens physical violence (i.e., "a thumping").
  • 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.
  • Crossed fingers are used to superstitiously wish for good luck or to nullify a promise.
  • Cuckoo sign, touched or screw loose. In North America, making a circling motion of the index finger at the ear or side of the head signifies that the person "has a screw loose," i.e. is speaking nonsense or is crazy.
  • Dap greeting is a form of handshake recently popularized in western cultures, related to the fist bump.
  • 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 Greece, Indonesia, Japan, 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 female genitalia. 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, and in Friuli.
  • The finger, an extended middle finger, 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, it may indicate boredom or awkwardness; when pointed to another, it is interpreted as a threat of violence, either genuine or in jest.
  • Fist bump is similar to a handshake or high five which may be used as a symbol of respect.
  • Fist pump is a celebratory gesture in which a closed fist is raised before the torso and subsequently drawn down in a vigorous, swift motion.
  • 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.
  • Hook 'em Horns is the slogan and hand gesture of the University of Texas at Austin used as a greeting or to cheer for sports teams. The gesture is made by pointing the index and pinky fingers upward to resemble a steer's horns, while the thumb clasps the middle and ring fingers.
  • 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 letter L is an insulting gesture.
  • Money sign. The thumb rubs repeatedly over the tip of the index finger and middle finger. This gesture resembles the act of rubbing coins or bills together and is generally used when speaking about money.
  • Moutza is a traditional insult gesture in Greece made by extending all five fingers toward the person being insulted.
  • Nazi salute or Hitler salute was used in Germany during World War II to indicate loyalty to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
  • Pitchfork or trident gesture is used at Arizona State University athletic events. It is made by extending the index, middle, and pinky fingers.
  • Pointing with index finger may be used to indicate an item or person. In North America, an extended index finger may be used to point at something.
  • Poking, tapping or jabbing a person with an extended finger, may be used to call for attention or to tease the person poked.
  • Pollice verso was a gesture supposedly used in Ancient Rome to pass judgment on gladiators with one's thumb.
  • Raised fist is a salute and logo most often used by leftist activists.
  • Respect is a gesture made by extending the index, middle, and ring fingers of one hand at another person with the middle finger raised slightly higher than the index and ring fingers. It is used in restricted circle as a sign of respect and approval.
  • Roman salute is a salute made by a small group of people holding their arms outward with finger tips touching. It was adopted by the Italian Fascists and likely inspired the Hitler salute.
  • Salute refers to a number of gestures used to display respect, especially among armed forces.
  • Scout handshake is a left-handed handshake used as a greeting among members of various Scouting organizations.
  • Shaka sign consists of extending the thumb and pinky finger upward. It is used as a gesture of friendship in Hawaii.
  • 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.
  • Sic 'em Bears is the yell and hand gesture used to support Baylor University athletics. The gesture is made by raising one hand and curling the fingers to resemble a bear's claws.
  • Sign of the horns is a hand gesture made by extending the index and pinky finger straight upward. It has a vulgar meaning in some Mediterranean countries and is used in rock and roll, especially in heavy metal music.
  • Talk to the hand is an English language slang expression of contempt popular during the 1990s. The associated hand gesture consists of extending a palm toward the person insulted.
  • Telephone. Thumb and pinky outstretched, other fingers tight against palm. Thumb to ear and pinky 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.
  • Three-finger salute (Serbian) is a salute used by ethnic Serbs, made by extending the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
  • Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down are common gestures of approval or disapproval made by extending the thumb upward or downward.
  • Two-finger salute is a salute made using the middle and index fingers. It is used by Polish Armed Forces and by Cub Scouts.
  • United Macedonia salute is a salute used by some nationalist Ethnic Macedonians. It resembles the A-Ok gesture.
  • V sign is made by raising the index and middle fingers and separating them to form a V. With the back of the hand facing outwards this is an offensive gesture in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. 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, South Korea, 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.
  • 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 English slang insult, "wanker", or might indicate a failure or waste.
  • War Chant, also known as Tomahawk Chop, is used in cheering for various athletic teams, including All Blacks rugby, Atlanta Braves baseball, and the Florida State Seminoles. It is made by extending all fingers and moving the forearm in a chopping motion.
  • Wave is a gesture in which the hand is raised and moved left and right, as a greeting or sign of departure. The gesture can be used to attract attention at a distance. Most commonly, though, the gesture means quite simply "hello" or "goodbye".
  • World's Smallest Violin (also called "How Sad" or "World's Smallest Violin Playing Hearts and Flowers") is made by rubbing the thumb and forefinger together, to imitate bowing a violin. This gesture is used to express sarcasm and lack of sympathy, in response to someone exaggerating a sad story or unfair treatment.
  • Zogist salute is a military salute instituted by Zog I of Albania.

Two-hand gestures

  • Air quotes are made by raising both hands to eye level and flexing the index and middle fingers of both hands while speaking. Their meaning is similar to that of scare quotes in writing.
  • Añjali Mudrā is a sign of respect among yoga practitioners. It is made by pressing the palms together.
  • Applause is an expression of approval made by clapping the hands together to create 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
  • Chironomia refers to the use of gestures to support oratory.
  • The Kohanic or Priestly Blessing - a gesture of benediction in Judaism, used (especially by those of Kohanic or priestly descent) when reciting the Priestly Blessing (Number 6: 22-26). Both hands are held up, palms toward the congregation, with the fingers grouped in twos - the little and ring fingers together, the index and second fingers together, and the tips of the two thumbs touching. Emblems of this gesture are used on the tombstones of those of kohanic ancestry. A one-handed version of this was adopted by Leonard Nimoy for the Vulcan salute in the TV series Star Trek.
  • Forefinger Rub — pointing one index finger at a person and rubbing the other against it — conveys the meaning "shame on you" and is usually performed when the other person has done something shameful or inappropriate.
  • Gator Chomp displays support for University of Florida athletic teams. The gesture is made by extending both arms in front of the chest and clapping the hands vertically.
  • Guns Up is the slogan and hand signal of Texas Tech University. The gesture is made from a closed hand by extending the index finger forward and the thumb up. This hand sign may be made with one or two hands.
  • Hand-rubbing, rubbing both hands together, indicates either one feels cold or one is expecting or anticipating something.
  • Jazz hands are used in dance or other performances by displaying the palms of both hands with fingers splayed.*Time-out — a "T" formed with the hands, with one hand with flat palm placed perpendicular to the other hand with flat palm, roughly in the center — originates in American sports. It is used by players to signal for a time out, or brief pause in play. In basketball, the gesture is additionally used by referees to indicate that a player or coach is guilty of a technical foul.
  • Victory clasp is used to exclaim victory by clasping the hands together and shaking them to one's side.
  • Whatever - made with the thumb and forefinger of both hands, to form the letter "W". Used to signal that something is not worth the time and energy. Popularized by the movie Clueless.

Gestures 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
  • Anasyrma, performed by lifting the skirt or kilt; used in some religious rituals
  • Biting the thumb, an old rude Italian gesture comparable to "the finger" in modern terms; in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Capulet's servant Sampson precipitates a brawl by biting his thumb at the Montague's servant Abraham (Act 1, Scene 1) In the scene, it appears that biting one's thumb in Verona is a non-verbal equivalent of fighting words. Sampson explains the meaning of the gesture to his companion Gregory, suggesting that the gesture could have been unfamiliar even to the original audience of the play. The play does not describe the gesture in detail, but in performances of the play it is often enacted by placing the thumb upright (as in a "thumbs up" sign) just behind the upper incisors, then flicking the thumb outward in the direction of person the gesture is meant to insult. The gesture implies cowardice--someone who would "take the fig". The gesture is also a traditional Sicilian insult meaning 'to hell with you'.
  • Blowing a raspberry or Bronx cheer, signifies derision by sticking out the tongue and blowing to create a sound similar to flatulence
  • Blow job, made by curling the fingers into a loose fist and moving the hand back and forth in front of the mouth, while the lips make a rounded "o" shape, as though performing fellatio; usually enhanced with the tongue pricking the inner wall of the cheek; considered lewd or obscene and depends on the context, implys different things linked to fellatio, such as informing somebody that someone is performing actual oral sex, offering one, asking one, as a taunting gesture to insult someone as male homosexual, or as an indication of "sucking up"
  • Bowing, lowering the torso or head; a show of respect in many cultures
  • Cheek kissing, pressing one's lips to another person's cheek, may show friendship or greeting
  • Choking sign, indicates that one is choking is to hold the throat with one or 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.
  • Curtsey, a greeting typically made by women, performed by bending the knees while bowing the head
  • Davai vyp’yem (Russian drinking sign), the index finger is flicked against the side of the neck, just below the jaw.
  • Dhyanamudra, sitting with both hands in the lap; signifies concentration
  • Drinking sign, in the United Kingdom, the gesture for drinking (used for example as an invitation to "go down to the pub") is made by putting the back of the thumb just below the lower lip, while the other fingers are close together as if holding an imaginary pint of beer, tipping it repeatedly. This gesture can also be used to imply that somebody is drunk, either literally or insultingly.
  • Elbow bump, a greeting similar to the handshake or fist bump made by touching elbows
  • Eskimo kissing, a gesture in Western cultures loosely based on an Inuit greeting, performed by two people touching noses
  • Eye-roll, 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
  • Facepalm, an expression of frustration or embarrassment made by raising the palm of the hand to the face
  • 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
  • Hand over heart, involves placing one's right hand, palm outstretched and facing in, over one's heart; male hat or cap wearers typically remove their hats and hold them in this hand. In some cultures, it is used as a gesture of respect towards flags or during singing of a national anthem. In the United States, it is usually performed as a part of the rituals of the [[Pledge of Allegiance
  • Hat tip or doff, a salutation or show of respect made by two people removing their hats
  • Head jerk, a quick, sudden, upward movement of the head, usually accompanied with the phrase "'sup" (a slur for "what's up?")
  • Kowtow, shows respect by bowing deeply and touching one's head to the ground
  • Mooning, a show of disrespect by displaying one's bare buttocks
  • Mudra, ritual gestures in Hinduism or Buddhism
  • 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
  • Touching or tapping the side of the nose with the index finger, means "we share a secret"; of British origin that was the popularized in America by the film The Sting
  • 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
  • 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."
  • Shrug, lifting both shoulders indicates lack of knowledge or concern
  • Salaam, an Arabic salute of greeting or respect consisting of low bow with the hand touching the forehead
  • Sampeah, a Cambodian greeting or gesture of respect made by lining up the palms and fingers together while bowing
  • Scout sign and salute, the use of the three-finger salute by Scout and Guide organizations
  • 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
  • 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
  • Thai greeting, or wai, shows respect or reverence by pressing the palms and fingers together
  • Throat slash, made by moving one's index finger 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 signal to stop broadcasting, i.e. "cut"
  • 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. In a two-handed version each thumb is placed in or slightly in front of the ears, the palms are open and facing forward, and the rest of the fingers wiggle.
  • 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 "I see a pretty girl" or that something is delicious; in Germany, the gesture can be used to suggest that someone is crazy
  • Zemnoy poklon or "great bow", used in some Eastern Orthodox Christian rituals, consists of bowing deeply and lowering one's head to the ground

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of gestures" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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