Why do you cross your fingers for someone?

General January 7, 2020 2:18 pm

"Good luck with your test, fingers crossed." Almost everyone who has ever faced a difficult task has heard this sentence. You can find out where this phrase comes from, in which countries it is known and what it actually means in this blog.

Where does this superstition come from?

As it is well known, fingers – especially the thumb – are supposed to bring good luck: "Good luck in your competition, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you". But where does this custom actually come from? There are several theories about the origin of this gesture:

  1. The first theory comes from ancient times: In a gladiatorial fight, the thumb signs decided about life or death of a participant. If the participant asked for mercy, the audience could decide. One thumb out, that meant he was to be killed. A fist – and thus a crossed thumb – symbolized that he would survive. If this was the case, i.e. the audience crossed their fingers for the gladiator, he was lucky and stayed alive.
  2. Already among the Germanic people the thumb was attributed supernatural, strong, luck-bringing powers. One wants to transfer these by pressing the thumb to the one to whom one wishes luck.
  3. According to the third theory, the thumb stands for a goblin, a witch – this was the belief especially in the Middle Ages – or a demon. If the thumb is now pressed, the villain is held. He can therefore no longer cause harm or bring bad luck.
  4. When people are tense or nervous – for example before a difficult task – the body automatically cramps up. The hands are clenched by the tension and the thumbs are thus pressed indirectly. In such a difficult situation, people hope that they are lucky and that everything will turn out as well as possible. So here, too, there is a connection between pressing the thumbs and being lucky.

From these examples you can see that, regardless of its origin, crossing fingers has a long tradition.

In which countries is this gesture known?

Especially in Germany and Austria – but also in the Netherlands, Switzerland and many other countries – this way of wishing someone good luck is very common. In other countries, such as England, fingers are crossed instead of fingers thumbs being pressed.

Why do you cross your fingers?

People always keep their fingers crossed for their loved ones when they wish them success or happiness in future events. Some people believe that especially the left thumb brings good luck. This can be explained, for example, by the fact that the heart lies on this side. So one wishes the other success with all one’s heart.

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