Crossed fingers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Crossed fingers

To cross one's fingers is a hand gesture commonly used to wish for luck. Occasionally it is interpreted as an attempt to implore God for protection.[1] The gesture is referred to by the common expressions "cross your fingers", "keep your fingers crossed", or just "fingers crossed". The act of crossing one's fingers mainly belongs to Christianity. The earliest use of the gesture had two people crossing their index fingers to form a cross.

The use of the gesture is often considered an excuse of telling of a white lie by children.[2] By extension, a similar belief is that crossing one's fingers invalidates a promise being made.[3]


The precise origin of the gesture is unknown.

Common usage of the gesture traces back to the early centuries of the Roman. Common use of crossed finger is found in the who would cross their fingers to invoke the power associated with for protection, when faced with evil.[1] In 16th-century England, people continued to cross fingers or make the sign of the cross to ward off evil, as well as when people coughed or sneezed.[4]

This superstition thus became popular among many early European countries. In some places, a comrade or well-wisher placed his index finger over the index finger of the person making the wish, the two fingers forming a cross. The one person makes the wish, the other empathizes and supports. Over centuries, the custom was simplified, so that a person could wish on his own, by crossing his index and middle fingers to form an X. But traces remain—two people hooking index fingers as a sign of greeting or agreement is still common in some circles today.

Charles Panati believes that the act of crossing one's fingers as a sign of luck or making a wish traces back to pre-Christian times, speculating that the cross was a symbol of unity and benign spirits dwelt at the intersection point.[5] A wish made on a cross was a way of "anchoring" the wish at the intersection of the cross until the wish was fulfilled.

Anecdotal use[edit]

The 1787 A Provincial Glossary, with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions by Francis Grose records the recommendation to keep one's fingers crossed until one sees a dog to avert the bad luck attracted by walking under a ladder.


Pressing thumbs as gesture to wish for luck in German-speaking countries

In Vietnam the gesture is considered rude,[6][7] especially to another person. Referring to female genitals, it is comparable to the finger in western culture.

In German-speaking countries and also Sweden the gesture is a sign of lying. Wishing for luck is gestured by pressing thumbs. The same gesture is used in many Slavic countries such as Poland,[8] the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Bulgaria and ex-Yugoslav[9] republics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. May 1990. pg. 177. "In early Christian days, a believer confronted by evil or hostile influences implored the power of the Holy Cross for protection by twisting his middle finger over his forefinger and holding the remaining fingers down with his thumb."
  2. ^ Field Guide to Gestures. Quirk Books. 2003. pg. 201. "Children are a big proponent of this gesture, though they usually use it when telling white lies, believing that having the fingers crossed behind the back makes it okay to fib."
  3. ^ de Lint, Charles (2007). Widdershins. Macmillan. p. 287. ISBN 0765312859. Widdershins. Retrieved 2013-05-29. To a child, forget ethics. Crossing your fingers while making a promise truly invalidated the promise.
  4. ^ Good Housekeeping, Volume 226. International Magazine Company. 1998. Crossing fingers: This was a Sign of the Cross that early Christians could use to avert bad luck without attracting the notice-and wrath-of pagans.
  5. ^ Panati, Charles (1989). Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. William Morrow Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0060964191.
  6. ^ "Things not to do in Vietnam #1: "Crossed fingers"". 29 May 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Vietnamese body language and what it means". 29 May 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  8. ^ pl:Trzymanie kciuków
  9. ^ "Držati (nekom) palčeve. - Idioms". Retrieved 13 December 2017.