Wave (gesture)

A wave is a nonverbal communication gesture that consists of the movement of the hand and/or entire arm that people commonly use to greet each other but can also be used to say goodbye, merely acknowledge another's presence, call for silence, or deny someone.[1] The different ways humans communicate with each other are plentiful, the wave gesture is one of the clear examples of how researchers get a better understanding of how they are essential part to language and thought.[2]

History of waving

The waving of the hand is a nonverbal gesture that has an unclear origin but is said to have dated back to as far as the 18th century medieval time[3] however, it was neither called waving, nor was it used as saying "hello", or "goodbye." The original gesture of waving was saluting. In the 18th century, knights removed the guard of their helmets to show their identity, following with a salute to show they come in peace; saluting is also used to show others that they are not armed with weapons and do not pose a threat.[4] The action of saluting wasn't formalised until the 1780s by the European armies, and since then became a common way of properly addressing one another in the military setting.[3] There is also an alternate ASL origin. In the 1800s waving handkerchiefs was a way to show approval, excitement, or to call attention for the deaf, and the Romans, which is known as the "Chautauqua salute." It was recorded during a Canadian event in 1984 that multiple attendees forgot their handkerchief, therefore they waved their hands in the air as a way to clap during the event.[5] . In modern days, the accepted and common way for a deaf individual to applaud is to raise their hands in the air, while simultaneously shaking their open fisted hand and moving their fingers back and forth.[6]

Waving to the deaf

Waving "hello" or "goodbye" to the deaf requires a different protocol and has an alternate meaning than the standard, one action waving gesture that means both "hello" or "goodbye." For an ASL user, or a deaf individual, saying "goodbye" is done by repeatedly opening and closing the right hand, while it faces the receiver of the gesture. This method is used to say "goodbye" to a group of people; saying "goodbye" to an individual is done with a different method. Saying "hello" is done by the traditional waving of the right hand. This method is used to say "hello" to a group of people, likewise with implying "goodbye", there is a different method to say "hello" to an individual.[7]

Components of waving

The waving of the hand has multiple variables and styles of performing the gesture. The common waving of the hand to mean "hello" or "goodbye" is done by moving the hand side to side, however there are more than one form of waving; each form having its own meaning.


Waving has four variables which include: the open palm (is the palm curved or straight), the angle of the wave (big waves or short waves), the elevation of the hand (above the head or held low), and the movement pattern of the wave (sideways rotation, up and down motion, side to side motion).[8]


There are different ways to wave the hand, some include the standard side-to-side wave, palm wide wave, wiggly wave (finger wiggle wave), "flirtatious" wave, open-and close finger wave, arm wave, and the "Miss America" wave.

People wave by raising their hand and moving it from side to side. Another common wave is to raise one's hand and repeatedly move the fingers downward toward the palm. A variant known as the wiggly wave consists of holding the hand near shoulder level and wiggling the fingers randomly. This can be used to appear cute or flirtatious to the target of the wave. The gesture can be used to attract attention at a distance. Most commonly, though, the gesture means quite simply "hello" or "goodbye .[9][10] The royal wave, also known as a regal wave, pageant wave, parade wave, or Miss America wave, is a similar but distinct kind of hand waving gesture in which a person executes something alternatively described as either a 'plastic grin' with 'fingers cupped' and 'forearm swaying side-to-side' or a "vertical hand with a slight twist from the wrist". The gesture is often performed, to various degrees, by different members of the British royal family, signaling anything from regality, class and control to elegance, restraint and character.[11][12]

Cultural interpretations

In American culture waving is a known gesture which means "hello" or "goodbye". This gesture can also be used to call the attention of someone, for example waving down a taxi, or waving at a friend from a great distance. This gesture can also be interpreted differently and have a whole other meaning or even be highly offensive in other places around the world. Some of these places include South Korea, European countries, Nigeria, Greece, Bulgaria, Latin American countries, India,Japan, etc.[13][14][15][16][17]

African culture


In Nigeria, waving the hand with the palm facing outward in front of someone's face is highly offensive and should be avoided.[14]

Asian culture


In China, women greet other women by waving.[18]


In Japan, hand waving while keeping the palm outward and near the face is a gesture used to display confusion or that the individual waving does not know or understand.[19][20]


In the Philippines, arm waving is considered an unacceptable gesture that can be punished with imprisonment since it is only used to call a dog's attention.[21]


In Singapore, the "beckoning arm wave" translates to "death is coming."[21]

South Korea

In South Korea, it is inappropriate to call the attention of someone with a palm-up arm wave. Instead, the proper way to wave to someone or call for attention is to wave vertically, making sure the palm of the hand is in a downward position.[13] It is not uncommon to see waving amongst the younger population (in South Korea) to display their departure rather than bowing, which is the traditional way of greeting one another. Waving the hand outward towards the face is also used to grab the attention of a pet or child.[19][20][22]

European culture

In Europe, there are two different common forms of waving: the palm-show and the palm-hide. The palm-show is dominant across most of Europe other than Italy which predominantly uses the palm-hide wave.[23]

Waving the hand to say "hello" or "goodbye" is done by moving the fingers down towards the wrist and back to an open palm position, while keeping the palm facing out. Another way to say "goodbye" is done by wagging the fingers. This motion (wagging fingers) is also used to say "no."[14][16]


In Greece, waving the hand with the palm facing out is considered offensive.

Holding the hand out, palm facing out and all five fingers exposed is offensive and dates back to the Byzantine times where prisoners faces were tainted with charcoal by their own hands and forced to parade down the town streets. This is called moutza. In American culture, holding the hand out like such can be used to call someone's attention or to greet someone.[24]


In Ireland, the deaf use the hand wave to greet one another. Deaf women use a "open palms up half moon shape" type of wave to greet one another. Waving is strictly used for only women; men have a different way of greeting one another or a woman.[18]

Latin American culture

In Latin American countries, people greet one another by kissing, hugging or shaking hands. Waving their hand is not common, but it also does not have any negative representation or offensive.[18]


In Nicaragua, waving to someone is not inappropriate however, it does not display proper etiquette. In Nicaragua it is common to hug, kiss, or shake hands, following with the proper time of day ("goodmorning," "good afternoon," or "goodnight").[18]

See also


  1. Plessis, Irina Garmashova-Du (January 1998). "Russian Male Gestures for Greeting and Bidding Farewell". Language matters. doi:10.1080/10228199808566136.
  2. Gesture. Cartmill, Erica A.; Goldin-Meadow, Susan Matsumoto, David (Ed); Hwang, Hyisung C. (Ed); Frank, Mark G. (Ed), (2016). APA handbook of nonverbal communication. APA handbooks in psychology., (pp. 307-333). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, xxiv, 626 pp.
  3. 1 2 Hodgman, Charlotte. "What are the origins of saluting?". History Extra. Immediate Media Company Limited. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  4. "ORIGIN OF THE HAND SALUTE". US ARMY QUARTERMASTER CENTER & SCHOOL. U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps Historian. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  5. Harrington, Tom. "Visual applause: Where did it come from?". libguides. Gallaudet University Library. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  6. Nickens, Carol (2008). The History of American Sign Language. The United States: LuLu Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-4357-4076-1. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  7. Potter, Anne. "Magic Words in American Sign Language (ASL)". Emily Post. Emily Post Institute, Inc. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  8. Straker, David. "Changing Minds". ChangingMinds. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  9. Armstrong, Nancy; Wagner, Melissa (2003). Field Guide to Gestures: How to Identify and Interpret Virtually Every Gesture Known to Man. Philadelphia: Quirk Books. ISBN 1931686203.
  10. Cooke, Jean (1959). "A few gestures encountered in a virtually gestureless society". Western Folklore. 18 (3): 233–237. doi:10.2307/1497708.
  11. Henninger, Danya (2013-09-06). "Wave Like Miss America, Get Freebies at Continental". Zagat. Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  12. Kindelan, Katie (2012-06-05). "Royal Wave: How Do the Royals Do It?". ABC News. Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  13. 1 2 Morse, Caroline. "10 Innocent Hand Gestures You Should Never Use Abroad". The Huffington Post. Smarter Travel. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  14. 1 2 3 "Innocent gestures that mean rude things abroad" (PDF). Tusd1. Tuscon Unified School District. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  15. Adams, Dylan. "5 Cultural Insults to Be Careful of When You're Abroad". Under30CEO. Under30CEO. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  16. 1 2 De Vito, J. (1993). Essentials of human communication. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 618–634.
  17. Atwater and Waldman, Leanne and David (2009). Leadership, Feedback, and the Open Communication Gap. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 74.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Swick, Dennis. "Greetings used around the world". Instituto InterGlobal. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  19. 1 2 Axtel, Roger (1991). Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around The World. John Wiley & Sons.
  20. 1 2 Axtell, Roger (1993). The Do's and Taboos Around the World. John Wiley & Sons.
  21. 1 2 "Warning Watch Your Hand Signals". Professional Translations. Professional Translations. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  22. "Cultural Etiquette: South Korea". eDiplomat. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  23. Morris, Desmond (1979). Gestures, their origins and distribution. New York: Stein and Day. p. 241. ISBN 0-8128-2607-8.
  24. "6 Innocent Hand Gestures That Can Land You in Hot Water Overseas". Expat Info Desk. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.