To pinky swear, or make a pinky promise, is the entwining of the little fingers ("pinkies") of two people to signify that a promise has been made.
In the United States, the pinky swear has existed since at least 1860, when Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms listed the following accompanying promise:
- Pinky, pinky bow-bell,
- Whoever tells a lie
- Will sink down to the bad place [sic]
- And never rise up again.
Pinky swearing presumably started in Japan, where it is called yubikiri (指切り?, "finger cut-off") and often additionally confirmed with the vow "Finger cut-off, ten thousand fist-punchings, whoever lies has to swallow thousand needles." (「指切りげんまんうそついたら針千本のます」 "Yubikiri genman uso tsuitara hari senbon nomasu"?). The gesture may be connected to the Japanese belief that soulmates are connected by a red string of fate attached to each of their pinkies.
In Japan, the pinky swear originally indicated that the person who breaks the promise must cut off their pinky finger.[dubious ] In modern times, pinky swearing is a more informal way of sealing a promise. It is most common among school-age children and close friends. The pinky swear signifies a promise that cannot be broken or counteracted by the crossing of fingers or other such trickery.
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