Two men shaking hands

A handshake is a short ritual in which two people grasp one of each other's like hands, in most cases accompanied by a brief up and down movement of the grasped hands.



Hera and Athena handshaking, late 5th century BC, Acropolis Museum, Athens

Archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th century BC; a depiction of two soldiers shaking hands can be found on part of a 5th century BC funerary stele on display in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin (stele SK1708)[1][unreliable source?] and other funerary steles like the one of the 4th century BC which depicts Thraseas and his wife Euandria handshaking (see images on the right). Some researchers have suggested the handshake may have been introduced in the Western World[specify] by Sir Walter Raleigh in service with the British Court during the late 16th century.[2] The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.[3][4][5]

The handshake is initiated when the two hands touch, immediately. It is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.[6]

Unless health issues or local customs dictate otherwise a handshake should always be made using bare hands. In some regions especially in Continental Europe, attempting to perform a handshake while wearing gloves may be seen as an inappropriate or even derogatory behavior. In traditional American etiquette the requirement to remove a glove depends on the situation - "A gentleman on the street never shakes hands with a lady without first removing his right glove. But at the opera, or at a ball, or if he is usher at a wedding, he keeps his glove on."[7]

In Anglophone countries, shaking hands is considered the standard greeting in business situations. In casual non-business situations, men are more likely to shake hands than women. It is considered to be in poor taste to show dominance with too strong a handshake;[6] conversely, too weak a handshake (sometimes referred to as a "limp fish" or "dead fish" handshake) could also be considered unseemly[8] due to people perceiving it as a sign of weakness.

In the Muslim World, to shake hands with somebody is a welcome sign and the practice of the Prophet Mohammed. The social behavior of the Companions also included handshaking along with saying `As-Salamu `Alaikum.' This Hadith by Abu Dawud shows that the custom of handshaking was prevalent in Yemen before Islam. When some Yemenites came to see the Prophet, they displayed their practice of handshake. He liked and approved it as his Sunnah.

Modern customs

Shaking with the right hand while delivering a certificate with the left
Tennis players shaking hands after match
Two men shaking hands.

There are various customs surrounding handshakes, both generically and specific to certain cultures:

  • An alternative to the customary handshake is sometimes called the "jiveshake" or "black man's shake," owing to its association with African-American culture. This performed by each person clutching the base of the other person's thumb (1st metacarpal). This shake is also a customary greeting between men in certain North American Indian cultures.
  • Generally, it is considered inappropriate, if not outright insulting to reject a handshake without good reason (such as a wet, dirty or injured right hand).
  • Individuals involved with the scouting movement specifically use a left handshake, called a scout handshake, as a convention instituted by Lord Baden-Powell. The idea came from a legend Baden-Powell heard while he was in West Africa. Two warring chiefs confronted each other, wanting peace. He dropped both his weapon and his shield. Not only was his right hand empty of a weapon he could attack with, but his left was empty of a shield of which to defend against the weapons of others with.
  • Practitioners of fencing shake with the non-sword hand after a bout. This is due to the sword hand being employed holding the weapon.
  • Secret societies and fraternities and sororities often use secret handshakes to identify themselves as initiated brothers or sisters to outside members.
  • In some cultures people shake both hands, but in most cultures people shake the right hand.
  • It is generally expected in Western culture that a handshake should be firm. Weak handshakes are sometimes referred to as 'limp' or 'cold'.
  • Generally, British people do not shake hands, except when they meet for the first time. On the other hand, in other European countries (France, Italy,...), people shake hands every time they meet.
  • In some Muslim countries (such as Turkey or the Arabic-speaking Middle East), handshakes aren't as 'strong' as in America and Europe. Consequently, a grip which is too firm will be considered as rude.
  • In China, where a weak handshake is also preferred, people shaking hands will often hold on to each other's hands for an extended period after the initial shake.[citation needed]
  • Among Arabic-speaking people, handshakes accompanied with the salutation As-Salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you) are an old pre Islamic Yemenite tradition.
  • In Turkey, outside business situations, shaking hands is not the standard greeting among men. In casual non-business situations, men will less likely shake hands and among women hardly at all. Kissing each other on the cheek twice is a more common practice.
  • In some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam (according to some opinions), the prohibition against physical contact between members of opposite sexes precludes shaking hands. In these religions, men and women however do shake hands amongst people of the same gender. Between opposite genders, a short nod or bow is given. Moroccans also give one kiss on each cheek (to corresponding genders) together with the handshake. Also, in some countries, a variation exists where instead of kisses, after the handshake the handpalm is placed unto the heart.[9]

Types of handshakes:

  • Hand Hug: The "handhug" is popular with politicians, as it can present them as being warm, friendly, trustworthy and honest. This type of handshake involves covering the clenched hands with the remaining free hand, creating a sort of "cocoon."
  • Dominance: Someone who displays their palm downwards is considered to show signs of authority or superiority.
  • Cold and Clammy: Occurs when one person has a sweaty or cold hand. Sometimes associated with weakness - such as by passive or apathetic people.
  • Crusher: Considered the favorite of those who are overly aggressive, this displays confidence and power and can be quite painful for the recipient.
  • Queens Fingertips: Common in male-female encounters, it involves one person (usually the female) presenting an outstretched hand in which only the first few digits can be grasped.
  • Keep Back: This handshake occurs when one party may feel threatened or intruded upon, and will keep at a (relative) distance during the handshake. [10]


Atlantic City, New Jersey Mayor Joseph Lazarow was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for a July 1977 publicity stunt, in which the mayor shook more than 11,000 hands in a single day, breaking the record previously held by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had set the record with 513 handshakes at a White House reception on 1 January 1907.[11][dead link]

On 21 September 2009, Jack Tsonis and Lindsay Morrison broke the Guinness World Record for the world's longest handshake, shaking hands for 12 hours, 34 minutes and 56 seconds.[12][13] However, on 21 November that year, Matthew Rosen and Joe Ackerman surpassed this feat, with a new world record time of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 45 seconds.,[14] certified in the latest edition of the Guinness Book of Records on page 111. At 8pm EST on Friday 14 January 2011 the latest attempt at the longest hand-shake commenced in New York Times Square and the existing record was smashed [15] by semi-professional world record-breaker Alastair Galpin[16][17][18] and Don Purdon from New Zealand and Nepalese brothers Rohit and Santosh Timilsina[19] who agreed to share the new record after 33 hours and 3 minutes.

See also


  1. ^ Thomas, Chris (27 August 2009). "Handshake - Priest and two soldiers, 500BC. Pergamon Museum Berlin (SK1708)". Picasa Web Albums. Google. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/CfKKr9k3OlZYxp6_UIlAgw. Retrieved 4 September 2011. [unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Busterson, Philip A.. Social Rituals of the British. 
  3. ^ "Dear Uncle Ezra - Questions for Tuesday, April 3, 2007". Cornell University. 3 April 2007. Question 8. http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?timestamp=1175580000. Retrieved 4 September 2011. "There are many conflicting theories about the origin of the handshake. It seems that the most common one involves the evidence of the lack of a weapon in the right hand, which normally bears a weapon. It is shown to be empty by its connectedness to the opposite person's hand." 
  4. ^ Evergreen.edu 4 December 2002[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ csun.edu -28 August 2002[unreliable source?]
  6. ^ a b "Shaking hands with women". GQ.com. Condé Nast Digital. 2000. http://www.gq.com/style/style-guy/miscellany/200006/women-hand-shaking. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Post, Emily (1922). Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Chapter 3. 
  8. ^ Obermeyer, Marlene. "Handshaking: Do you know what your handshake says about you?". Buzzle.com. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. http://web.archive.org/web/20110610203042/http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/1-15-2006-86424.asp. 
  9. ^ Strubbe, Kevin; Hobert, Liesbeth (2009) (in Dutch). Etiquette in het buitenland [Etiquette Abroad]. Leuven: Van Halewyck. ISBN 978-90-5617-910-6. 
  10. ^ (in english) Handshake: Student's Book: A Course in Communication. OUP Oxford (7 Nov 1996). ISBN 978-90-5617-910-6. 
  11. ^ DeAngelis, Martin (4 January 2008). "Joseph Lazarow, who led Atlantic City through start of casino era, dies at 84". The Press of Atlantic City. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_three/story/7526015p-7427184c.html. Retrieved 4 January 2008. [dead link]
  12. ^ McClymont, Mhairi (21 September 2009). "Great shakes! World record raises charity funds". ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/21/2691474.htm. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "World's Longest Handshake". http://www.everydayhero.com.au/worldslongesthandshake. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Movers and shakers - an article on the new World Record". The Jewish Chronicle Online. 3 December 2009. http://www.thejc.com/community/community-life/24504/movers-and-shakers. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Longest Handshake: Team New Zealand and Team Nepal set world record". Worldrecordsacademy.org (New York, NY). 18 January 2011. http://www.worldrecordsacademy.org/society/longest_Handshake_Team_New_Zealand_and_Team_Nepal_set_world_record_112070.html. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  16. ^ Galpin, Alastair. "Records achieved". WorldRecordChase.com. Longest continuous handshake. http://www.worldrecordchase.com/achieved-records.html. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Kiwis break world record for a handshake". TVNZ.co.nz. Television New Zealand Limited. 17 January 2011. http://tvnz.co.nz//national-news/kiwis-break-world-record-handshake-4000587. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "World record handshake holders". TVNZ.co.nz. Television New Zealand Limited. 19 January 2011. http://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/record-handshake-holder-4002624/video. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  19. ^ Allheadlinenews.com[dead link]

External links

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