Origin of middle finger
Words nearby middle finger
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What else does middle finger mean?
Where does middle finger come from?
As a gesture, the exact origins of the middle finger are obscure, though there are some stories.
One story traces it back to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. As the story goes, French soldiers would cut off the index and middle fingers of captured British archers, who needed them for slinging arrows. When the French failed to capture any bowmen, the British would flash those two precious digits to taunt their enemies while shouting “Pluck yew!” Their bows were made from the yew tree.
A good rule of thumb, er, middle finger: If an etymology sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Scholars instead note that the Ancient Greeks used the middle finger as a phallic symbol and the Romans called the finger the digitus impudicus, or “unchaste finger.” These meanings both imply a sexual aggression or dominance. Think about how we use the term dick or f*ck off as an insult today.
Whatever its origins, written reference to giving the middle finger dates back to the mid-1500s. Since then, the gesture, and spoken or written reference to it, has been a staple in Western culture to express anger and disgust to someone—a way of saying “f*ck you” without having to strain your voice, hence its great visibility in road rage.
The middle finger has stood in for an obscenity from politics to popular culture. In 1976, for instance, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller gave hecklers the middle finger at a New York campaign event.
Many popular movies have featured the finger or the bird, as the middle finger is often called, from Molly Ringwald in 1985’s The Breakfast Club to Neo in 1999’s The Matrix.
The middle finger has caused many a public controversy, too. During the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, singer M.I.A. let the bird fly in a general act of self-expressive defiance. The NFL attempted to get over $16 million in damages from her at one point.
And, at the opening ceremonies to the 2018 World Cup, singer Robbie Williams gave the finger to millions viewing worldwide. He later claimed he meant it as a one-minute countdown to kickoff but he got all mixed up in the moment.
How is middle finger used in real life?
The term middle finger is used in reference to the gesture, the nonverbal version of “f*ck off” so often delivered in road-raging cars or when walking away from a heat-of-the-moment spat at a sporting event.
It’s not a universally crude gesture, however. In many Islamic cultures, the thumbs up gesture is considered vulgar while the two-fingered V sign can communicate the choice sentiment in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Flip any of them the bird, however, and they’ll know exactly what you mean.
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
How to use middle finger in a sentence
I found the button on the earbuds difficult to press, often requiring me to pinch the stem with my thumb and middle finger.Skullcandy Dime earphones review: These wireless earbuds are a sweet deal|Billy Cadden|June 28, 2021|Popular-Science
He was 41 then, and had a Texas twang, blue eyes, a woolly brown beard, and a ponytail that ran to his shoulders like a middle finger to his superiors.The Search for a Ranger Who Was Lost and Never Found|Brendan Borrell|April 1, 2021|Outside Online
The index and middle fingers of his right hand still held a cigarette, long burned out.
One respondent simply said “go to hell,” another accused me of being a child trafficker, a third sent a selfie of his middle finger.
Harden blocked Dort’s last-second shot — a sort of middle finger to those who’ve criticized his defense in the past.How An Undrafted Rookie Stopped James Harden In The Playoffs|Julian McKenzie|December 7, 2020|FiveThirtyEight
According to Pew, 14 of the 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa have blasphemy laws.
In the middle of all of that past suffering and present-day conflict, this Cosby bomb was dropped.
And, especially when it comes to the middle, personality counts.
The same picture emerges from middle class men in the U.S., Canada, and the Nordic countries.
As a white, educated, Western, middle-class male, I possess most of the unearned privilege the world has to offer.
She looked so sweet when she said it, standing and smiling there in the middle of the floor, the door-way making a frame for her.Music-Study in Germany|Amy Fay
Suddenly, however, he became aware of a small black spot far ahead in the very middle of the unencumbered track.The Joyous Adventures of Aristide Pujol|William J. Locke
The Seven-score and four on the six middle Bells, the treble leading, and the tenor lying behind every change, makes good Musick.Tintinnalogia, or, the Art of Ringing|Richard Duckworth and Fabian Stedman
When we speak against one capital vice, we ought to speak against its opposite; the middle betwixt both is the point for virtue.Pearls of Thought|Maturin M. Ballou
Dinner occurred in the middle of the day, and about nine in the evening was an informal but copious supper.Hilda Lessways|Arnold Bennett