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A-ok gesture.

An A-ok /ˌ.ˈk/ is both a saying, derived from okay, and a hand-gesture done by connecting the thumb and index finger into a circle (the O), and holding the other fingers straight or relaxed in the air.

Unicode symbol U+1F44C (👌) represents this gesture.


US Air Force Lt. Col. John "Shorty" Powers popularized the expression "A-ok" while NASA's public affairs officer for Project Mercury, attributing it to astronaut Alan Shepard during his Freedom 7 flight.[1][2] In his book The Right Stuff, however, author Tom Wolfe wrote that Powers had borrowed it from NASA engineers who used it during radio transmission tests because the sharper sound of A cut through the static better than O.[3] Apparently, the first documented use "A-ok" is contained within a memo from Tecwyn Roberts, Flight Dynamics Officer, to Flight Director (entitled "Report on Test 3805", dated Feb 2, 1961) in penciled notes on the countdown of MR-2, dated Jan 31, 1961.[4]

Multiple meanings[edit]

Positive connotation[edit]

Vitarka mudra, Tarim Basin, 9th century

In the military slang among the conscripts of the Finnish Defence Forces, this gesture is used to denote the number 0, referring to the days left until their honorable discharge.[citation needed] It is also used as a taunt to other conscripts that still have a number of days left.

In basketball, players sometimes use this gesture to show they just made a three pointer.

A similar gesture, the Vitarka mudra ("mudra of discussion") is the gesture of discussion and communication (for the number 0) of Buddhist teaching.[5]

Neutral connotation[edit]

Diving signal for "I'm OK" or "Are you OK?"

In underwater diving, it widely means both Are you okay?, and its response Yes, I'm OK, or just I'm OK. It can be confusing for beginners, because using the thumbs up gesture rather than the A-ok gesture signals that the person making that gesture wants to ascend (to the surface).

In Japan, when used with the back of the hand facing down and the circle facing forward, it means money, and in France means zero.[6] In Australia and Portugal, it can either mean okay or zero.

Negative connotation[edit]

While the gesture is positive in some countries, in certain parts of middle and southern Europe (although not in Spain or Portugal) the gesture is considered offensive,[7] as in you are a zero or you are nothing. In some Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, as well as in Brazil, it represents vulgar expressions: either an insult (you are an asshole), or the slang for anus itself.[8] By the same symbolism, it stands for faggot (a vulgar word for homosexual) in several South American countries.

The "A-ok" gesture is also associated with the circle game, in which players attempt to trick other players into looking at the "A-ok" below their waist.[9]

In most continental European countries, when the sign is placed over the nose, with the nose protruding through the O made by the thumb and forefinger, it means drunk. The origins of this sign may stem from the hand gesture holding a bottle's head while drinking. As a bottle with alcoholic liquid is implied this refers to drinking or the state of being drunk.[citation needed]

In the Arab world, this sign is used as a threatening gesture, as in saying: "You'll see!".[10]

In Occultists view it is the number 666 due to the circle and the three fingers behind it.[11] The sign is associated with the Illuminati or Freemasonry by some conspiracy theorists, especially when shown in the media and used by mainstream entertainers.[12][13]


  1. ^ "Calm Voice from Space". Time (Time Inc.). March 2, 1962. Retrieved April 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ Strauss, Mark (April 15, 2011). "Ten Enduring Myths About the U.S. Space Program". Smithsonian (magazine). Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Wolfe, Tom The Right Stuff, p. 215
  4. ^ "Tecwyn Roberts: A-OK." llanddaniel.co.uk. Retrieved: May 5, 2011.
  5. ^ Gertrud Hirschi (2000). Mudras: yoga in your hands (illustrated ed.). Weiser Books. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-57863-139-1. 
  6. ^ American Express Travel Helpers. Cultural customs
  7. ^ Dangerous Body Language Abroad, by Matthew Link. Posted Jul 26th 2010 01:00 PM. Retrieved on November 17, 2012
  8. ^ Body Language. Obscene, to be used with extreme moderation! Retrieved on November 17, 2012
  9. ^ The Original Website of the Circle Game
  10. ^ Gestures, Arab Culture PDF. GlobalSecurity.org
  11. ^ OK—Sign of the Divine King
  12. ^ Masonic Signs in the Media
  13. ^ Illuminati Symbols : Satanic 666 Hand Sign