What is the Meaning of Middle Finger?

Discover the history and modern interpretation of the middle finger gesture, its examples, case studies, and statistics on usage.

The History of the Middle Finger

The middle finger has a long history as a gesture of insult. It dates back to ancient Greece, where it was called the ‘digitus impudicus’ or ‘impudent finger.’ In Roman times, it was known as the ‘digitus infamis’ or ‘infamous finger.’ The gesture has been used across cultures and time periods to express disdain, disrespect, or anger.

The Modern Interpretation

Today, the middle finger is commonly understood as a vulgar and offensive gesture. It is used to convey strong negative emotions, such as anger, defiance, or contempt. The middle finger is often seen as an expression of frustration or a protest against authority.

Examples of Middle Finger Use

One famous example of the middle finger being used as a form of protest is during the Vietnam War. In 1968, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, anti-war protesters famously raised their middle fingers in defiance of the establishment. The image became a symbol of the anti-war movement.

  • Protesting injustice or oppression
  • Expressing frustration or anger
  • Showing disrespect or disdain

Case Studies

In a study conducted by the University of California, researchers found that the middle finger gesture is more likely to be used by individuals with higher levels of impulsivity and lower levels of agreeableness. It is often associated with a lack of self-control and a rebellious attitude.


According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 42% of Americans say they have used the middle finger as a gesture of anger or frustration. The gesture is more common among younger adults, with 58% of those aged 18-29 reporting that they have used the middle finger in this way.

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