The fig sign
The fig sign

The fig sign is a mildly obscene gesture used at least since the Roman Age in Italy, Southern Europe, parts of the Mediterranean region, including in Turkish culture, and has also been adopted by Slavic cultures and South Africa. The gesture uses a thumb wedged in between two fingers. This gesture is most commonly used to ward off the evil eye, insult someone, or deny a request. It is still currently used in countries such as Australia, France and Czech Republic to pretend taking the nose off a child.

Because of its origins in Southern Europe or Latin Europe, the gesture was imported to Latin America.

In ancient Rome, the fig sign, or manu fica, was made by the pater familias to ward off the evil spirits of the dead as a part of the Lemuria ritual.[1]

The hand gesture may have originated in ancient Indian culture to depict the lingam and yoni.[2]

Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or 'obscene hand'.[2]

The letter "T" in the American manual alphabet is very similar to this gesture.

The word sycophant comes from the Ancient Greek word συκοφάντης (sykophántēs), meaning "one who shows or reveals figs"; though there is no unequivocal explanation as to the reason why sycophants in Ancient Greece were so called, one explanation is that the sycophant, by making false accusations, insulted the defendant in a manner analogous to making the fig sign.[3]

International nomenclature

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See also


  1. ^ Adkins, Lesley (2004). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome: p317.
  2. ^ a b c d Hamilton, Terri (2007). Skin Flutes & Velvet Gloves. p. 279–80.
  3. ^ "According to C. Sittl (Die Gebdrden der Griechen und Romer, Leipzig, 1890) the word refers to an obscene gesture of phallic significance (see also A. B. Cook in Classical Review, August 1907), called "showing the fig" (faire la figue, far la fica or le fiche), originally prophylactic in character. Such gesture, directed towards an inoffensive person, became an insult, and the word sycophant might imply one who insulted another by bringing a frivolous or malicious accusation against him." Chisolm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sycophant". Encyclopædia Britannica. vol. 26 (11th ed.). pp. 276–77 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Hamiru-aqui (2008). 70 Japanese Gestures. Translated by Aileen Chang. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-1933330013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  5. ^ "Što znači... Figa u džepu" - in Croatian [1]
  6. ^ Though lacking a definitive reference, abundant examples of these uses exist and are easily accessible on the Internet. (It appears, for example, in movie scenes by Kemal Sunal, and is used frequently in the comedy shows of Levent Kırca.)