The Thumbs-Up Hand Gesture Around the World – Learn the Meaning of Hand Gestures

Hand gestures mean different things in different countries. What is considered a cool sign may be a grave insult in another country. This article takes a look at one of the most common signs: the thumbs-up sign.

The thumbs-up sign consists of a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward. The most common interpretation of this sign is as a sing of approval (there is even a metaphor in English: The proposal was given a thumbs-up), but there are some countries where it may be an insult or where it will not be understood.

The origin of the sign is unclear, but one theory is that the thumbs up sign was used by the crowds to signal if a defeated gladiator should be spared, whereas the thumbs down would signal that he should be killed.

Let’s have a look at different countries and what the thumbs-up sign means there:


If it is still or downwards, it usually means OK or alright (or agreement). Thumbs-up with a little upward motion can be a grave insult, depending on context.


The sign means alright or good. You can use it to signify approval.


OK, good.


Perfect, good




Ok, well done, great.


Means great, good job, OK, congratulations.


Very obscene gesture.


Very obscene gesture.


OK, good.


OK, go or alright or used for hitchhiking.


Sometimes means ”good”, not widely practiced by adults.

New Zealand

Means like all good, or yes or anything positive really (when hitchhiking this gesture is also used but held right out so people in cars can see).


Well done, good.


All right.


OK, great.


Very obscene gesture.


Not used.

United Kingdom

OK, good.


Thumbs up. Means ”great” or ”awesome” or whatever. Also used to sign approval, but stronger than an OK sign.

Please note that meaning of gestures varies among various parts of countries and also among cultural groups and between generations.

Next Post

South Uist in Scotland

South Uist is a beautiful island in the Western Isles of Scotland. Also known as the “Outer Hebrides” the islands lie off the West coast of Scotland a little further out from the Isle of Skye (in the Inner Hebrides). South Uist is the second largest, of the archipelago, being […]

You May Like