What Does Fingers Crossed Mean?

Introduction

This article answers the question “What does fingers crossed mean?”

You might think you know the answer, but as well will see, there is more than one correct answer.

What Does Fingers Crossed Mean - crossed fingers

The meaning depends on your location and/or language.


The English Version

In most English-speaking countries, people cross their fingers for one of two reasons.

For luck.

For example, your exam results have arrived and you cross your fingers for luck before opening it (as if that’s going to change the contents ^^).

Or when you tell someone that your driving test, job interview, etc. is tomorrow, they will often cross their fingers for you, so that things go well for you.

When telling a white lie.

If you don’t want to go to a party, but lack the courage to turn down the invitation, you agree to come, but cross your fingers behind your back.

When asked about why you didn’t come, you cross your fingers again and explain that the car broke down, or the dog ate the directions or whatever lame excuse you come up with.

The two might even be related. If you’re telling a porky, you might be hoping to be lucky and that the person accepts your lie.


The American Version

In addition to the versions above, there is another meaning that I associate with the US.

It is also used to describe a closeness with another person, in a non-sexual way.

For example, if you’re asked why you were chosen to be the best man at a wedding instead of a more obvious choice, you could cross your fingers and explain that you and the groom are like that, meaning very close.


The German Version

The German version of crossing fingers only has one meaning, namely when telling lies.

When Germans want to wish each other good luck, the press their thumbs, as shown in the picture below.

What Does Fingers Crossed Mean - pressed thumbs


The Vietnamese Version

This is perhaps the most interesting version, if only because it has the most potential to get you into trouble.

Crossing your fingers at someone, especially a female, in Vietnam is a highly offensive gesture, as it refers to female anatomy ‘down there’.

Basically, if you do that, you are calling the person a c***, which is not the best way to make friends.


Summary

Such a simple gesture, with such widely different meanings.

Do you know of another meaning in your language and/or culture?

If so, please let us know in the comments below – curious minds want to know.

6 Comments

  1. bea

    Wow! Very interesting post. I am very quick to cross my fingers for luck especially when I’m with my friends. I am also very familiar with the English and American versions but I have never heard of the German and Vietnamese version so thank you for this post. I’ll definitely be sharing with my friends.

  2. Okay, now I learned something unique today. I knew there are lots of different hand gestures and signals that vary from across the world, but now I learned a few more in German and Vietnamese – Which I will never ever use.

    All the same, very interesting. I recall a famous picture of Churchill back in WW II with the backwards “V” sign, that some people say is a sign for Victory, while others claim it was meant to be a vulgarity. Never bothered to look it up, but it makes me wonder.

    All in all a very unique website geared towards Business English.

  3. Well I wasn’t aware of all those meanings!
    Particularly the American one. The Vietnamese is the odd one out, but at the same time it’s such a different culture that it’s doesn’t surprise me all that much. It’s just a different system of symbols where most of what we’re used to probably doesn’t work anymore. And I’ve seen the Germans do their strange thumb thing. 🙂 Actually my grandma used to do that even though she’s not German or even related to one, as far as I know. Cool article!

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