The names of the fingers on your hand

Posted on 24. Jul, 2012 by in Culture, English Vocabulary

What are the names of the fingers on your hand?  Do you know their names in English?  After reading this you will!  Here is quick review of the names of your fingers and some important cultural notes about the significance of these different fingers in American culture.  Please refer to the picture below to learn the English name for each of your fingers.


Thumb: Your thumb is not actually a finger, but we usually think of it as one.  In the United states people give a “thumbs-up” to show approval or to show that they are happy with something.  People also use their thumb to hitchhike.  Sticking out one’s thumb while standing by the side of a road means ‘I want a ride.’  Hitch hiking in the United states is uncommon, but everyone knows what this signal means.  See the picture below of a thumb out for hitch hiking.

Index finger or pointer: This finger has two names.  The name ‘pointer’ or ‘pointer finger’ comes from the fact that people use this finger to point or indicate things.  It is considered rude to point at another person in the United States, but it is fine to point at objects, for example it is common to point at an object in a store if you need help getting it or want to purchase it and it is also common to point at an object to show it to another person.

Middle finger:  Extending the middle finger when all the other fingers of the hand are not extended is considered rude in the United States.  Doing this is the same thing as saying “F*ck you.”

Ring finger: This is the finger on which people most often wear rings, particularly wedding rings.  In the United States it is customary to wear a wedding ring on the left hand ring finger.

Pinky or little finger: The littlest finger of the hand also has two names.  You might have the phrase “pinky swear” in English, this refers to a gesture involving the pinky finger.  A pinky swear is when two people (often children) interlock their pinky fingers (see the picture below) and make a promise.  Often children think a promise that is made along with a pinky swear is more significant that any other type of promise.

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About gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after I completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.

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