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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, forming a disassembled K.

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, and was reported as attributing it to astronaut Alan Shepard during his Freedom 7 flight.[1][2] However, the NASA publication This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury says in a footnote: "A replay of the flight voice communications tape disclosed that Shepard himself did not use the term." and that "Tecwyn Roberts of STG and Capt. Henry E. Clements of the Air Force had used 'A.OK' frequently in reports written more than four months before the Shepard flight."[3][4] Apparently, the first documented use of "A-ok" is contained within a memo from that Tecwyn Roberts, a Flight Dynamics Officer, to Flight Director (entitled "Report on Test 3805", dated Feb 2, 1961) in penciled notes on the countdown of MR-2 (Mercury-Redstone 2), dated Jan[uary] 31, 1961.[3][5] In his book The Right Stuff 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".[2]

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, this gesture has been used for the referee signal for a successful three pointer, which is done by raising both hands into the ok gesture (showing three fingers in a destinctive way that would not be mistaken from a successful two points). Sometimes players use this gesture to show they just made a three pointer because of this.

A similar gesture, the Vitarka mudra ("mudra of discussion") is the gesture of discussion and communication (for the number 0) of Buddhist teaching.[6]

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.[7] In Australia and Portugal, it can either mean okay or zero.

In Hong Kong, it can either mean "okay" or "three". "Zero" is represented by a semi-closed fist.

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,[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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!".[11]

In Occultists view it is the number 666 due to the circle and the three fingers behind it.[12] The sign is associated with the Illuminati or Freemasonry by some conspiracy theorists, especially when shown in the media and used by mainstream entertainers.[13][14]


  1. ^ "Calm Voice from Space". Time (Time Inc.). March 2, 1962. Retrieved April 3, 2011. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b Wolfe, Tom (1988). The Right Stuff (17th print ed.). Toronto: Bantam Books. p. 227. ISBN 9780553275568. Retrieved June 28, 2015 – via Google Books. 
  3. ^ a b Swenson, Loyd S. Jr.; Grimwood, James M.; Alexander, Charles C. (1989). "This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, Chap. 10: 'Ham Paves the Way'". Footnote 37. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). Retrieved June 22, 2015. In reporting the Freedom 7 flight, the press attributed the term to Astronaut Shepard, ... A replay of the flight voice communications tape disclosed that Shepard himself did not use the term. . It was Col. John A. "Shorty" Powers ... Tecwyn Roberts of STG and Capt. Henry E. Clements of the Air Force had used "A.OK" frequently in reports written more than four months before the Shepard flight. ... Other sources claim that oldtime railroad telegraphers used "A-OK" as one of several terms to report the status of their equipment. Be that as it may, Powers, "the voice of Mercury Control," by his public use of "A.OK," made those three letters a universal symbol meaning "in perfect working order."  
  4. ^ Strauss, Mark (April 15, 2011). "Ten Enduring Myths About the U.S. Space Program: 5. “Alan Shepard is A-Okay”". Smithsonian . Smithsonian Institution. p. 3. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Tecwyn Roberts: A-OK." llanddaniel.co.uk. Retrieved: May 5, 2011.[unreliable source?]
  6. ^ Gertrud Hirschi (2000). Mudras: yoga in your hands (illustrated ed.). Weiser Books. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-57863-139-1. 
  7. ^ American Express Travel Helpers. Cultural customs
  8. ^ Dangerous Body Language Abroad, by Matthew Link. Posted Jul 26th 2010 01:00 PM. Retrieved on November 17, 2012
  9. ^ Body Language. Obscene, to be used with extreme moderation! Retrieved on November 17, 2012
  10. ^ The Original Website of the Circle Game
  11. ^ Gestures, Arab Culture PDF. GlobalSecurity.org
  12. ^ OK—Sign of the Divine King
  13. ^ Masonic Signs in the Media
  14. ^ Illuminati Symbols : Satanic 666 Hand Sign