Universal Hand Gestures


Years ago I decided I wanted to learn, or at least have a practical knowledge of American Sign Language. So I enrolled in a high school evening course and stuck it out for ten weeks. I enjoyed it but it didn’t penetrate the thickness of my skull. A week afterward I remembered nothing at all. Which got me thinking, there is a kind of universal sign language that everybody already knows. It’s called Hand Gesturing. So I started writing down and describing the common hand gestures that all of us use everyday to communicate with each other when words would be less convenient or effective.  The following is my list, which keeps growing all the time. How many do you use? More than you think, I’m guessing. Again, like all my lists, they are in no particular order.

Applause (Clapping of hands to indicate appreciation)

It’s A-Okay (Index finger touching thumb with remaining three fingers extended)

It stinks! (Clinching of the nose)

I’m praying for you. (Hands clasped in prayer.)

Enjoying a musical rhythm (Snapping fingers to a beat)

Curtains! (Index finger dragged across the throat)

Showing respect for authority (Military style-salute)

One minute please (Extending index finger and lightly shaking it)

Hitchhiking (Standing roadside with elbow bent with thumb extended and shaken)


Good luck! (Crossing of thumbs and fingers; on both hands for maximum luck)
How dare you! (Slapping another across the check)

I’m Cringing (Biting with extended index finger length-wise in mouth)

I said No! (Index finger extended and moved like a metronome.)

Goodbye (Waving up and down with open hand)

Hello (Shaking side to side with open hand)

It’s a cinch! (Quick snapping of fingers)

Whew! (Wiping of brow with back of hand)

Stop! (Extending arm forward with hand propped upward)

Crazy (Circling of index finger on side of head at the temple)

Nice figure! (Moving of arms and open hands in shape of an hourglass)

Sexual intercourse (Right index finger inserted in and out of left clinched palm)

Quiet! (Shushing with index finger touching lips while lightly exhaling)

Blow a kiss (Blowing breath along open hand held perpendicular to mouth)

Scout’s honor (Extension of middle three fingers extended while thumb and index finger are crossed below them)

Pledge of Allegiance (Palm open right hand placed against the heart)

I’ll kill you! (Shaking of clinched fist next to cheek)

Rock on! (Shaking hand while thumb and baby finger extended outward)

I love you! (Cradling both hands in the shape of a heart)


I disapprove! (Dipping hand up and down with thumb extended downward)

Peace (Extension of index and middle fingers upward in a V)

Beat it! (Quick back and forth of thumb extended hand beside head)

Your safe (Arms extended with hands palm down and shaken side to side)

I’m drunk (Clicking of middle finger against side of throat)

Hit the road! (Shaking of hand rearward next to head while thumb extended from closed hand)

I’m sleepy (Yawning while tapping open hand in against open mouth)

I’m hungry (Circling of open hand against the tummy)

I’m dizzy (Circling of both hands with index fingers circling temples)

I’m crying (Mournful look while brushing downward cheek with index finger)

It sinks! (Clinching nose with thumb and index finger)

It’s expensive (Quick rubbing of thumb and fingers at shoulder level)

La Dee Da (Playful back and forth motioning of extended index finger)


It’s great! (Thumbs up)

It sucks! (Thumbs down)


Call me (Extended thumb and baby finger at ear)

I promise (Crossing your heart with index finger)

I’m chocking (Clasping of throat with wide open mouth)

Fuck off! (Backside of middle finger extended from clinched fist)

Good idea (Pointing and tapping extended index finger at temple)

Let’s hope so (Crossing of index and middle fingers)

I’m fibbing (Crossing of index and middle fingers held behind the back)

Vulcan Salute (Palm open hand held upward while making a V between middle and ring fingers)

It’s iffy (Loose shaking of open hand at chest level)

Goal! (Arms and hands held skyward)

Got it! (Arm motioning back and forth at waist level while fist clinched)

Between you and me (Index and middle fingers pointed at eyes and then outward)

We agree (Crossed index and middle fingers shaken in front of face)

It’s a secret (Slight twisting of closed thumb to signify locking a door and throwing away the key)


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