The Meaning of Hand Gestures Around the World (2024)

Hand gestures are an integral part of communication, particularly if we are speaking in a foreign language. They are a great way of making sure we’re getting our point across and underpin what we’re trying to say. Many travelers will also use hand gestures as a means of non-verbal communication when traveling in countries where they do not speak the local language. Be aware though – not all hand gestures have the same meaning in all countries! It is worth looking into different hand gestures when you learn English online, so you are one step ahead of the game.

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Not understanding the meaning of gestures in different cultures can lead to misunderstandings, insults and even violence. However, since hand gestures are such a regular part of our daily communication habits, it is easy to make a mistake. US Presidents George W Bush and Richard Nixon both unintentionally insulted their audiences in Australia and Brazil by flashing commonly used American hand gestures, not knowing that the meanings were drastically different.

Check out our handy guide to hand gestures and make sure you don’t accidentally insult anyone on your next holiday or business trip.

Thumbs up

Thumbs up is perhaps the most common of hand gestures and one that has been used for thousands of years. The signal for approval or agreement is commonly found European and American cultures as a sign of approval or that things are going according to plan. The gesture is so prevalent that it is a common emoji and is commonly used in social media and customer service ratings to indicate satisfaction.

However, in many Islamic and Asian countries, it is considered a major insult. In Australia, the gesture also means all is fine unless the user moves it up and down which transfers the gesture to an insult.

The thumbs down gesture is also commonly used in America, but less so in many other countries. The gesture obviously means the opposite of “thumbs up”, however in many cultures it is considered to be very rude and arrogant.

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The Meaning of Hand Gestures Around the World (1)

The “V for Victory” or Peace sign

This hand gesture is another one which is fairly universal. Prior to the 1960s it was primarily used to indicate “victory”. During the Vietnam war and hippy era the sign began to mean peace and is now typically referred to as the “peace sign.”

However in many countries outside of the US the direction the palm is facing makes a major difference in the meaning.

The peace sign is the one that caused George W. Bush some problems when he flashed it to an Australian crowd with the palm facing inward, which is a major insult.

The V sign with an inward facing palm is also considered and insult in the UK and South Africa.

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The OK

The OK sign, which is made by curling the index finger over the thumb and extending the other fingers above them, is another fairly common hand gesture in America and most of the English-speaking world meaning that everything is going well and according to plan. It is also regularly used by divers to indicate that all is well to their dive partners.

However, in Latin America, the gesture is considered to be extremely rude as Richard Nixon discovered after flashing it to a large crowd of Brazilians awaiting his arrival in Rio de Janeiro who responded to his greeting with a chorus of “boos”.

In France the gesture is also considered an insult; in Australia it means “zero”, in New Zealand the user is basically considered to be lazy.

The Meaning of Hand Gestures Around the World (2)

The Come Here gesture

In the US and some other English speaking countries curling the index finger toward the palm of the hand is used to summon someone towards you. In movies the gesture is frequently used by a female character as a way of tempting a man.

However, in other countries this gesture is also called the dog call and as the name implies should not be used to summon humans. Using the gesture in the Philippines it is one of the most offensive gestures that can result in the user’s arrest of even having his finger broken as a punishment. The Japanese also consider the gesture to be rude. In Singapore the gestures is used to mean “death”.

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The Corona Hand Gesture

This gesture which consists of the index and little finger pointing upwards and the two middle fingers curled toward the palm has a wide variety of meanings.

During the last few decades it has been used by hard rock bands and their fans as a symbol of approval or enjoyment.

In many European countries it is the sign of the devil; whereas it is a positive sign in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

The sign is used to indicate that one’s spouse is cheating on them in Italy, Brazil, Cuba, Spain and Portugal.

Interestingly it is also the sign of the University of Texas in Austin who are known as The Longhorns. The symbol is flashed at sporting events meaning “Hook’em Horns.”

In many ways the world is becoming “smaller”. People are far more mobile than at any time in our history. Both business and personal travel are increasing. Additionally, virtual conferences and meetings using platforms such as Skype or GoToMeeting are increasingly a part of daily business life.

This means that more and more people are communicating with those in other cultures. It is important to avoid offending others when traveling. Whenever you travel for business or pleasure to another country spending a bit of time to research the culture and especially customs such as non-verbal communication is a wise use of your time. It could mean the difference between a fun, productive trip and one that is possibly far less pleasant.

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The Meaning of Hand Gestures Around the World (2024)

FAQs

What does the 🤟 hand gesture mean? ›

Emoji Meaning: A hand with all fingers spread apart, indicating a virtual high-five, wave or "halt" gesture. Emoji Icon:🤟🤟🏻🤟🏼🤟🏽🤟🏾🤟🏿 Emoji Name: Love-you Gesture.

What is the difference between 🤘 and 🤟? ›

🤟 (Love-You Hand) Emoji

The Love-You hand emoji is often confused with the 🤘 emoji, which is often used to say “Rock on!” You can tell these two emojis apart because the love emoji has the thumb pointing outward in the shape of the letter “L” as in “love.”

What does 👌 mean in Brazil? ›

Making a circle with your thumb and your index finger is how to signal "OK" in the US. But make the same gesture in Brazil, and you're giving the equivalent to the middle finger — the gesture has "insulting and scatological connotations," as the New York Times put it.

What is the significance of hand gestures? ›

Hand gestures are an integral part of communication, particularly if we are speaking in a foreign language. They are a great way of making sure we're getting our point across and underpin what we're trying to say.

What does the 🤟 hand emoji mean? ›

The emojis "🤟" and "🤘" are similar hand gestures but have different meanings and cultural associations. 🤟 Sign of the Horns (I Love You Gesture):This emoji is often known as the "I Love You" gesture.

What does 👉 👈 mean from a girl? ›

👉👈 — Shy, nervous – usually in the context of flirting.

What does 🤙 mean? ›

Some common meanings and interpretations of this emoji include: Hang Loose or Relax: In many cultures, the "shaka sign" is associated with a relaxed and carefree attitude. It can be used to say "hang loose" or "take it easy." Surfing Culture: The shaka sign is closely tied to surfing culture, particularly in Hawaii.

What is the meaning of 🤘 🤘 🤘? ›

🤘 = You Rock! or Rock On! 🤟 = Love You!

What does 🙌 mean? ›

1. The 🙌 emoji represents celebration and positive vibes. The 🙌 emoji depicts someone raising their hands high over their head. This gesture is common when you see someone rooting the home team on, or praising someone. In fact, this emoji originally meant “give me ten!” as in two high-fives.

What does 🖕 🖕 mean? ›

The emoji 🖕, commonly known as the "middle finger" emoji, is a hand gesture that is often considered offensive or rude in many cultures. It is used to express strong disapproval, contempt, or to convey a disrespectful attitude.

What does mean? ›

This gesture, used to express love or affection, is known as a finger heart and was popularized in the 2010s by South Korean celebrities, including actors, K-pop stars, and comedians.

What does 👍 mean from a guy? ›

The thumbs up emoji usually just means “o*k.”

Their 👍 is most likely a good sign and they are just agreeing with what you're saying. Say you asked a friend if they wanted to meet for lunch. Your friend may say “yes” by sending you a 👍 .

What does 🖖 mean? ›

What does 🖖 Vulcan Salute emoji mean? Live long and prosper, friends! If you ever need to spread the love to your geekier friends, then flash a 🖖. The Vulcan salute emoji, 🖖, is perfect for showing your Star Trek cred or sci-fi pride more generally.

What does 🤟 mean? ›

The 🤟 emoji is commonly known as the "I love you" hand sign. It is used to express love, unity, and connection. This hand gesture is often associated with positivity, support, and solidarity.

What hand gesture means I love you? ›

695. To sign I love you in American Sign Language (ASL), point out your thumb and index finger to form an “L”. While keeping them extended, lift your little finger. Your middle and ring finger keep touching your palm. Finally, direct your hand towards the person you are talking to.

What does the 🤟 mean in love? ›

🤟 is an emoji depicting the "I love you" hand sign in American Sign Language (ASL). It's a gesture where the thumb, index finger, and pinky finger are extended, while the middle and ring fingers are folded down. It's commonly used to express love, appreciation, or support.

What is 🤘 called? ›

A "rock on" hand gesture raising the pinky and index fingers on one hand, which a variety of other meanings. Sign of the Horns was approved as part of Unicode 8.0 in 2015 and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015.

What does 🤙 mean in slang? ›

"Call me" gesture. With the thumb held near the ear and the little finger pointed at the mouth, the gesture is commonly understood to mean "call me", as it resembles the handset of a traditional landline telephone. The Unicode 9.0 emoji 🤙 "Call me hand" can be interpreted as the shaka sign.

Does 🤙 mean call me? ›

This emoji can be used in the conventional sense to tell someone to call you. It can also be used to communicate that something cool or has good vibes, due to the "call me" gesture looking very similar to the "hang ten" sign, common in surf culture.

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