You’ve probably noticed your teenager using some strange hand gestures, especially with their friends, and often in photos.
So just what are teens and tweens trying to SAY with these hand signs on social media anyway?
Do parents need to be worried, or are these gestures just innocent teenage fun?
Perhaps a little bit of both?
We scoured the internet and asked our own teens to decode some popular hand signals for us.
The good news is that some things haven’t changed that much since we were kids, but beware, a few of these are not exactly safe for work or little kids!
V sign emoji
This sign has several meanings, depending on whether you hold your two fingers up with the palm facing forward or backward.
Holding up forwards can mean Victory or Peace, as well as the number 2 or simply the letter V.
In the Second World War, the V for Victory campaign was started by de Laveleye in a BBC broadcast.
He suggested that citizens use the V as a rallying emblem to highlight their strength in numbers while awaiting their occupier’s weakness and failure.
They also used an audible V using its Morse code rhythm (three dots and a dash).
You might recognize the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony which has the same rhythm.
Many years later U.S. President Richard Nixon used the gesture to signal victory in the Vietnam War.
Protesters against the Vietnam War used this hand gesture as a sign of peace. Hippies often flashed this sign (palm out) while saying “Peace”, so it became popularly known as “the peace sign”.
What Does Two Fingers Sideways Mean?
Most likely it still means peace or peace out to indicate that you’re leaving. It’s just a more urban form of the original peace sign.
However, according to the MailOnline, if you see a waiter using the sideways peace sign, they could be telling other staff that a VIP has arrived and needs special attention.
Heart Hand Signs
Made popular by Taylor Swift as a sign meaning something between “I Love You” and “Thank You” to her fans. The heart hand sign is a popular hand gesture with young teens to show appreciation to someone.
In South Korea, they use the finger heart gesture where you cross the thumb and index finger to form an imaginary heart shape above the two fingers.
You can even get a vinyl wall art decal of this cute Korean ‘Heart Hand Love Sign’.
Hole / The Circle Game
Although the pictured hand gesture may have different meanings to different people, it is most commonly used by youngsters in conjunction with “The Circle Game”.
It’s a sort of “made you look” prank that appears to be experiencing a surge in popularity.
This is a silly game teenagers play. The goal is not to look at it. If you do, you’re bound to get sucker-punched.
The Urban Dictionary explains the game as follows:
A game of peripheral vision, trickery, and motor skills.
The game starts out when the Offensive Player creates a circle with their thumb and forefinger, not unlike an “A-Okay” signal, somewhere below his waist.
His goal is to trick another person into looking at his hand.
If the Victim looks at the hand, he has lost the game, and is subsequently hit on the bicep with a closed fist, by the offensive player.”urbandictionary.com
Your teen might get a kick out of these meme Circle Game socks.
The thumb and index finger make an “L”, other fingers closed, with the palm facing the observer.
This one will probably be familiar, but in case you forget, “L” stands for a loser.
However, in Northern China, people use this hand gesture to show the number 8.
Children simply call the sign “this.”
The game is for players to get people to look at “this,” then ridicule them.
Just a silly game teens play.
The Stop time / Two Finger Touch Hand Sign
When you want to stop time in its tracks, use the stop time hand sign.
I also read on Quora recently that this sign could also be used to indicate two penises touching, and would be used to gesture that what someone said sounded gay. So just be aware of this in case your teen is using this sign in this negative way.
Update: hand signs and their meanings are continually evolving and the latest meaning of the two fingers touching hand sign is used to show shyness or nervousness. This sign is used widely in TikTok videos and is like twiddling your fingers together while working up the courage to say what’s on your mind.
The two fingers together emoji is often paired with the wide-eyed smiley face emoji as well.
Place your thumb and forefinger together (as if holding a joint), with your other three fingers up in the air. When you bring your two fingers ‘holding the joint’ to your mouth and pretend to take a hit, this is a sign of wanting to smoke weed.
Hold your little finger up and your thumb pointing towards your mouth, with the three middle fingers curled inward. This gesture indicates drinking from a bottle and could signal drinking alcohol.
Call Me or Shaka Sign
Call me or Shaka Sign Emoji
With the thumb held near the ear and the little finger pointed at the mouth, the gesture is commonly understood to mean “call me”, as it resembles a handheld telephone.
The 🤙 “Call me hand” can also be interpreted as the shaka sign.
This uniquely Hawaiian Shaka hand sign is a gesture of friendly intent.
Hawaii Shaka ‘Hang Loose’ Decal Sticker
It’s most commonly used to convey the aloha spirit as a motion of greeting or thanks.
The Shaka can be used to mean “right on,” “hang loose” or simply “hello”.
New Call Me Sign That Teens Use Now
Most of us would recognize the ‘Call Me’ sign shown above, but a recent social experiment shows that most teens today, don’t use this sign anymore. With the shift to cellphone use, this hand sign has changed as well.
Watch this short video below to see what sign teens use today to indicate ‘Call Me’ instead.
I Love You
I love you emoji
Taken from American Sign Language, the ILY sign simply means “I love you.” It’s a combination of the signs for letters I, L and Y (I Love You).
What is the difference between 🤘 and 🤟?
The first one means “🤘Rock on.” The second one means “🤟I love you.”
Sign Of The Horns / Rock On
Sign of the Horns Emoji
A hand gesture raising the pinky and index fingers, on one hand, can refer to heavy metal, the devil, or encouragement to ‘rock on’. This sign is very commonly used at rock concerts.
However, don’t use this sign in Spain, Greece, or Italy. Known as Corna, this gesture implies to a man that his wife is cheating on him.
I found this awesome kit where your teen can make any hand gesture into a plaster mold and display it in his/her room.
Four Fingers Up Hand Sign
Football players will hold up four fingers to indicate that the fourth quarter is theirs or that they are going to win the game in the fourth and last quarter.
The four fingers represent the statement that “The Fourth Quarter is Ours.” This gesture has been copied by many college (and high school) teams after being originated by the Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant-coached teams at the University of Alabama in the 1970s.” – answers.com
Ice In My Veins
As with many hand gestures, the meaning of two fingers pointing to the veins in your arm has different meanings which change over time.
Many years ago it used to mean shooting up drugs.
However, this hand sign has been widely used to show that someone is cool under pressure. The hand gesture is often used by professional sportsmen like NBA players to show that they can handle the pressure in the last few minutes of the game.
Lately, TikTokers put two fingers on their arm when they’re explaining or revealing something truthful about themselves. Using the hand gesture, it appears as though they are checking their pulse, which implies that they are being completely honest with their followers, telling them something deeply personal.
Plur Hand Signs
You might have heard the term ‘PLUR’ and wondered what it’s all about. It basically stands for Peace, Love, Unity & Respect. It’s often used at raves, festivals, and in the EDM community, where people will trade their ‘Kandi’ (bracelets or necklaces) with each other.
So if someone comes up to you at a festival and holds out the peace sign to you, you might want to mimic what they do. Make a peace sign with your fingers and hold it up against theirs. Next, you’ll do the love sign, then place flat hands together for unity, and lastly thread your fingers through theirs for respect.
You can then exchange your ‘Kandi’ bracelets with one another.
Here’s a lovely video showing you how to use the Plur hand signs:
Side Middle Finger
Middle finger emoji
Yes, the middle finger (also knows as ‘the bird’) turned sideways, is equivalent to the traditional finger in the air.
This is an alternative gesture that teenagers sometimes use because it is less obtrusive – essentially, they’re hoping not to be caught flipping someone the bird.
You might have seen and wondered what this ring finger down hand gesture meaning is.
The shocker, also known colloquially as “two in the pink, one in the stink,” is a hand gesture with a sexual connotation.
The ring finger and thumb are curled or bent down while the other fingers are extended. The index and middle fingers are kept together and the back of the hand faces outwards.” Wikipedia
The shocker is an obscene gesture referring to the act of inserting the index and middle fingers into a vagina, and the little finger into the anus, hence the “shock”.
But be aware that this does not have the same meaning everywhere. In Korea, a very similar hand signal (Emeka), but with the fingers apart, means Peace, Love, and Unity.
So check if the fingers are apart or together, to know if it’s an ‘Emeka’ or a ‘Shocker’ hand signal.
The Fig Sign
The fig sign is a mildly obscene hand gesture where you thumb is wedged in between two fingers in a closed fist.
Although there are several different meanings in different countries going back many years, one of the most prevalent meanings is that of a penis penetrating the female genitalia.
It’s also the same hand gesture you make when you pretend to pull the nose off a child, which has no offensive meaning.
V Sign With Tongue
Not quite the same meaning as the peace sign!
This hand gesture gets a little naughty when you bring the tongue into the picture.
As you may have guessed, this one suggests oral sex.
Outward/Backward-facing V Sign
If you turn your palm to face yourself and hold up your two fingers in a V sign, then this is often seen as an insult.
The ‘Two-Finger Salute’ might look like a peace sign, but it’s actually the equivalent of the middle finger in certain countries like the UK, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, India, Pakistan, and New Zealand.
The gesture is often performed by flicking the V up from the wrist or elbow.
Different Country Meanings
Did you know that there are many more hand gestures that have a totally different meaning in different countries?
Read more to ensure that you don’t accidentally insult someone when traveling to their country.
OK sign emoji
Consider the OK sign – the hand signal in which you join your thumb and first finger together to make a circular shape.
We use it to express agreement and compliance in the United States.
However if you use it in Greece, Spain, or Brazil, it means calling someone an a**hole.
And in some Western countries, you can use this sign to signal zero or nothing.
An index finger curved toward your palm is a common “beckoning” gesture. It means “come here.”
However, in the Philippines, these gestures are considered offensive since they are used to call dogs.
If used towards another person, it is equivalent to calling them inferior or animalistic.
Crossing Your Fingers
Crossed fingers emoji
Crossing your fingers in most countries means wishing for luck.
However, in Vietnam, it is considered extremely insulting as it depicts a woman’s genitalia.
It is the hand-sign equivalent of saying the c-word.
Whenever we put our pinky up we’re usually imitating drinking tea, signifying being fancy.
However, in Japan, this same hand signal doesn’t mean ‘fancy’ but ‘women’.
So if someone comes into work far too happy in the morning, you might see someone raising their pinky up, implying that he has a new lady in his life.
Here are even more rude hand gestures from around the world that you might not know.
Street Gang Hand Signs
As I personally do not know enough about street gang hand signs, I don’t feel that I have the authority to post them on my blog.
However, if you’re worried that your teenager might be using these signs, or you want to find out if a sign is a gang sign, then you can look through the Institute Of Police Technology And Management Basic Street Gangs: “Hand Signs” manual.
They include many gang signs from ‘Crips’ to ‘Bloods’, and ‘Vice Lords’ and many more.
Other Types Of Hand Signs
This list covers many mainstream hand signs that you may come across.
There are however several other hand signs that we haven’t covered yet.
American Sign Language
The most well-known is the American Sign Language.
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English. ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing, and is used by many hearing people as well.”nidcd.nih.gov
Anime or Manga Hand Signs
This includes Naruto hand signs, as well as several others like Chidori hand signs and fireball Jutsu hand signs, which are part of anime or manga.
Naruto hand signs are used to perform many ninjutsu, genjutsu, and other secret arts other than taijutsu. They are designed to aid people in properly summoning and molding chakra necessary to perform a technique.”naruto.fandom.com
You can read more about Naruto hand signs and what they mean here.
Solfege Hand Signs
The solfege music system has seven basic syllables: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti.
Solfege hand signs have a simple concept: each tone in the seven-note solfege system is symbolized by a shape a singer makes with their hand while singing.
Hand signs can be produced with only one hand, making them useful for singers who are new to the solfege system.
We hope you’ve found some of these signs and their meanings interesting.
If there are any new hand gestures that your teen uses, that we’ve missed, then please let us know in the comments below.