Finger (gesture)

Finger (gesture)
The finger

In Western culture, the finger (as in giving someone the finger or the bird), also known as the middle finger, is an obscene hand gesture, often meaning the phrases "fuck off" ("screw off"), "fuck you" ("screw you") or "up yours". It is performed by showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards.



In Ancient Greece it was known as the κατάπυγον[1][2] (katapugon, from kata - κατά, "downwards"[3] and pugē - πυγή, "rump, buttocks"[4]) and reference is made to using the finger in ancient Greek comedy to insult another person, where the term katapugon also meant "a male (or a female, katapugaina[5]) who submits to anal penetration".[6] It is identified as the digitus impudicus (impudent finger) in Ancient Roman writings[7] and the widespread usage of the finger in many cultures is likely due to the geographical influence of the Roman Empire and Greco-Roman civilization. Another possible origin of this gesture can be found in the first-century Mediterranean world, where extending the finger was one of many methods used to divert the ever-present threat of the evil eye offense.[8]

Other names

The gesture has also been referred to flipping, flicking off (sometimes flashing or flying) the bird;[9] or it could be flipping somebody off.[9]

See also

  • Obscene gestures


  1. ^ κατάπυγον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  2. ^ David M. Halperin, John J. Winkler, Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World, p.186. Princeton University Press, on Google books
  3. ^ κατά, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  4. ^ πυγή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ Claude Calame, Janet Lloyd, The poetics of eros in Ancient Greece, p. 137, Princeton University Press, 1999, on Google books
  6. ^ Beth Cohen, Not the classical ideal: Athens and the construction of the other in Greek art, p.186, Brill, 2000
  7. ^ Adams, Cecil. "What's the origin of 'the finger'?" Straight Dope, September 4, 1998
  8. ^ Malina, Bruce J., The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology, 3rd Ed., (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001)
  9. ^ a b Kipfer, Barbara Ann; Chapman, Robert L. (2008). American Slang. HarperCollins. p. 165. ISBN 9780061179471. OCLC 191931926. 

External links

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