OK (gesture)

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Normal "A-ok" Hand Gesture

The hand gesture performed by connecting the thumb and index finger into a circle (the O), and holding the other fingers straight or relaxed in the air, is a commonly used form of nonverbal communication. In many parts of the world, it is synonymous with the word OK, denoting approval, agreement, or that all is well. In other contexts or cultures, this same gesture may have different meanings or connotations, including negative or offensive ones.[1]

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

Multiple meanings[edit]

Positive connotation[edit]

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

The gesture is widely used to mean "all is well" or "good". Where the word "OK" may mean a thing is merely satisfactory or mediocre, as in "the food was OK", the gesture is commonly understood as a signal of approval,[1] and is sometimes used synonymously with the Western "thumbs up" gesture.

A similar gesture, the Vitarka mudra ("mudra of discussion") is the gesture of discussion and communication (for the number 0) of Buddhist teaching.[2]

In yoga the gesture is known as chin mudra ("the seal of consciousness") when the palm is face down, or jnana mudra ("the seal of wisdom"). In these mudras the middle, ring, and pinky fingers represent the three gunas of rajas, tamas, and sattva which, when in harmony, unite individual and universal consciousness. The pressing together of the thumb and forefinger represents that union—or "yoga"—of consciousness.[3]

Negative connotation[edit]

While the gesture is not positive in some countries, in certain parts of middle and southern Europe (although not in Spain or Portugal) the gesture is considered offensive.[4] The connotation of zero or worthless is known in France and Belgium, while in some Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, and Greece, in the Middle East, as well as in parts of Brazil and Germany, and several South American countries, it may be interpreted as a vulgar expression: either an insult (you are an asshole), the slang for anus itself, or an offensive reference to homosexuality.[1]

In the Arab world, this sign represents the evil eye, and is used as a curse, sometimes in conjunction with verbal cursing.[5]

In some areas both the positive "OK" and the negative forms are practiced, which can lead to confusion over which meaning is intended.[1]

In February of 2017, users on the anonymous imageboard /pol/ of 4chan set out on a prank to convince mainstream media outlets that the OK hand gesture had been hijacked for use by white supremacists to signal one another publicly[6]. The pranksters claimed that the three upward fingers of the OK hand sign represented the letter “W” while the circle formed by joining of the index finger to the thumb leading down the arm represented the letter "P". The acronym formed by "W" and "P" was asserted to be shorthand for “White Power.” The original thread produced infographics explaining this usage concisely, which were subsequently spread to many different media outlets according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The hoax began to gain traction when media outlets began reporting on the usage of the OK gesture as if it were, in fact, being used as a white supremacist hand gesture[7]. Most of these media outlets have since recanted their statements, citing the official response from the ADL. The ADL has confirmed that the OK gesture is not a white supremacist hand sign[8].

However, while the "OK" sign as a specific white power symbol was found to be a 4chan prank, it has been used as a gesture of identification among members of the white nationalist alt-right movement[9]. When asked about use of the "OK" sign, Alt-Right celebrity Lauren Southern said, “We just say ‘do the thing’ and everyone knows what you're talking about.” She linked use of the "OK" sign by the Alt-Right community to a gesture commonly used by United States President Donald Trump.[10]. In July 2018, four Alabama police officers were suspended for being photographed making the hand gesture.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Armstrong, Nancy; Wagner, Melissa (2003). Field Guide to Gestures - How to Identify and Interpret Virtually Every Gesture Known to Man. Quirk Books. ISBN 978-1-931686-20-4. 
  2. ^ Gertrud Hirschi (2000). Mudras: yoga in your hands (illustrated ed.). Weiser Books. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-57863-139-1. 
  3. ^ Carroll, Cain; Carroll, Revital (2013). Mudras of India : a Comprehensive Guide to the Hand Gestures of Yoga and Indian Dance (Expanded edition. ed.). Singing Dragon. ISBN 184819109X. 
  4. ^ Dangerous Body Language Abroad, by Matthew Link. Posted Jul 26th 2010 01:00 PM. Retrieved on July 26, 2017
  5. ^ "Gestures, Arab Culture" (PDF). . GlobalSecurity.org
  6. ^ https://archive.4plebs.org/pol/thread/114691345/
  7. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/white-power-hand-symbol-cassandra-fairbanks-mike-cernovich-alt-right-white-house-a7709446.html
  8. ^ https://www.adl.org/blog/no-the-ok-gesture-is-not-a-hate-symbol
  9. ^ https://www.weeklystandard.com/holmes-lybrand/fact-check-were-four-police-officers-suspended-for-alleged-white-power-gesture
  10. ^ https://theoutline.com/post/1428/the-ok-sign-is-becoming-an-alt-right-symbol?zd=2&zi=vb2v2dze
  11. ^ http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/397509-alabama-police-officers-suspended-for-making-hand-gesture

External links[edit]