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. Not included are the specialized gestures, calls, and signals used by referees and umpires in 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.
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. It is considered obscene in Latin America.
- Abhayamudra is a Hindu Mudra or gesture of reassurance and safety.
- 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 (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.
Before "bunny ears," people were given cuckold's horns
as an insult by sneaking up behind them with two fingers (c. 1815 French satire).
- Bellamy salute was used in conjunction with the American Pledge of Allegiance prior to World War II.
- 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 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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. The "symbolism has been forgotten but the insult remains" in modern culture as bunny ears.
- Dap greeting is a form of handshake recently popularized in western cultures, related to the fist bump.
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 Greece, 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. The middle finger presumably refers to an erect penis penetrating the female genetalia represented by the curled ring and index fingers.
- 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.
- Horn sign is a hand gesture made by extending the index and little finger straight upward. It has a vulgar meaning in some Mediterranean Basin countries like Italy and is used in rock and roll, especially in heavy metal music.
The ILY sign, "I Love You"
- 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.
- 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. 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 and presenting the palm or palms 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.
- 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.
- Pointing with index finger may be used to indicate an item or person.
a man pointing at a photo
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 little finger upward. It is used as a gesture of friendship in Hawaii and surf culture.
- 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 uses the same fingers as the hand of benediction, but is unrelated.
- The so-so gesture expresses mild dissatisfaction. The hand is held parallel to the ground (face down) and rocked slightly.
- 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 little 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.
- Three-finger salute (Serbian) is a salute used by ethnic Serbs, made by extending the thumb, index, and middle fingers. 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 (see description above) and also to the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keyboard combination, pressed simultaneously, to initiate a restart of a personal computer or to display a dialogue box showing all applications and processes then running.)
- Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down are common gestures of approval or disapproval made by extending the thumb upward or downward.
- Tomahawk chop is a motion of the arm which mimics the slicing of a hand axe known as the tomahawk. This gesture is famously used by sports fans that support the Florida State Seminoles, Atlanta Braves, and other teams. The gesture begins with the right arm bent upward with the fingers of the hand flat and together. It finishes when the arm is extended in front of the person, in a chopping motion.
- 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 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.
- V sign as an insult is made by raising the index finger and middle finger separated 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.
- 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 that he 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 (ש).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hand-rubbing, rubbing both hands together, indicates either one feels cold or one is expecting or anticipating something.
- Hands up, don't shoot is the gesture of exposing open palms facing someone lifted above waist line level usually to shoulder level, usually accompanied with verbal statements e.g. "Don't shoot." It is linked to military surrender because, in performing the gesture, it would be hard to conceal or draw a weapon towards the person your are facing from anywhere weapons can be readily accessible without them noticing. Also, the revealing of open palms is seen in animal behaviour  as a psychological and subconscious behaviour in body language to convey trust, openness and compliance. The gesture has been used in the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown as a social rallying point and social meme.
- 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.
- Merkel-Raute: Described as "probably one of the most recognisable hand gestures in the world", the signature gesture of Angela Merkel has become a political symbol used by both her supporters and opponents.
- Quenelle: The gesture created by French comedian Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala was often associated with anti-Zionism or antisemitic sentiments. It is compared to the bras d'honneur and the Nazi salute. It is made by touching the shoulder of an outstretched arm with the palm of the other hand.
- 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
- Blowing a raspberry or Bronx cheer, signifies derision by sticking out the tongue and blowing to create a sound similar to flatulence
- 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
- Curtsey, a greeting typically made by women, performed by bending the knees while bowing the head
- Cut-eye, gesture of condemnation in Jamaica and some of North America
- 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
- 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
- Eyebrow raising. In Marshall Islands culture, briefly raising the eyebrows is used to acknowledge the presence of another person or to signal assent. Eyebrow flash is used for various meanings in other settings as well.
- 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
- Hat tip or doff, a salutation or show of respect made by two people removing their hats
- Head bobble, an affirmative response or acknowledgement common in India
- Head shake, indicates a negative reaction to a query or a rejection in English-speaking cultures
- Hongi, a traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand, performed by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person.
- 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
- Orant, a gesture made during prayer in which the hands are raised with palms facing outward
- Pointing with the lips. In the Philippines, Venezuela, and other cultures, people may point at things by first making eye contact, then puckering the lips, turning the head and gesturing the bottom lip in the direction of the thing to be indicated.
- 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. 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
- 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
- Suck-teeth, gesture in West Indies also known as stiups signalling disagreement or 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 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 (deer or moose antlers), 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 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.
- Zemnoy poklon or "great bow", used in some Eastern Orthodox Christian rituals, consists of bowing deeply and lowering one's head to the ground
||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gestures.
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