Finger names

Finger names

When chatting with some Japanese friends today, the subject of finger names came up for some reason – specifically what the different fingers are called in Japanese and English. It took quite a while to establish which finger corresponded to which name – to make this clear, I found a picture of a hand, added labels and uploaded it to my site.

This is what the fingers are called in those languages:

拇指 (boshi) / 親指 (oyayubi) lit. “thumb/parent finger” = thumb
人差し指 (hitosashiyubi) = lit. “person offering finger” = first finger / index finger
中指 (nakayubi) = middle finger
薬指 (kusuriyubi) = lit. “medicine finger” = third finger /ring finger
小指 (koyubi) = lit. “little finger” = fourth finger / little finger / pinky

In Latin the fingers are named thus:

Thumb = Polex
First finger = Demonstratus (pointer)
Second finger = Impudicus (gesticulates)
Third finger = Annularis (ring)
Fourth finger = Auricularis (removing wax from ear)

Their names in Welsh are as follows:

Thumb = bawd
First finger = bys troed (foot finger)
Second finger = bys canol (middle finger)
Third finger = bys y fodrwy (ring finger)
Fourth finger = bys bach (little finger)

and Irish they’re:

Thumb = ordóg
First finger = corrmhéar (odd finger)
Second finger = méar fhada (long finger)
Third finger = méar fáinne (ring finger)
Fourth finger = lúidín

What about in your language?

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This entry was posted in English, Irish, Japanese, Language, Latin, Welsh.

48 Responses to Finger names

  1. Polly says:

    At the risk of telling you something that we already have in common:

    Thumb
    Index finger
    Middle finger
    Ring finger
    Pinky

    The little “pinky” finger is the one I’m most curious about. Do other English-speakers call it thus?

  2. suchosch says:

    in Czech:
    1. palec
    2. ukazovák/ukazováček – “pointer”
    3. prostředník/prostředníček – “middle finger”
    4. prsteník/prsteníček – “ring finger”
    5. malík/malíček – “little finger”

  3. Faustus says:

    In German it´s

    Daumen (Thumb)
    Zeigefinger (Index finger)
    Mittelfinger (Middle finger)
    Ringfinger (Ring finger)
    Kleiner Finger (Litte finger)

  4. anònim says:

    Catalan:

    Thumb = Polze
    First finger = Índex
    Second finger = Cor (heart)
    Third finger = Anular (~anell = ring)
    Fourth finger = Menovell/Petit (small)

  5. Gunnar says:

    In Icelandic it´s

    Þumalfingur (Thumb)
    Vísifingur (Index finger)
    Langatöng (Middle finger)
    Baugfingur (Ring finger)
    Litli fingur (Little finger)

  6. Martin says:

    In Swedish it’s:
    Tumme – thumb
    Pekfinger – point finger
    Långfinger – long finger
    Ringfinger – ring ringer
    Lillfinger – little finger

  7. Hugo says:

    In Dutch:

    Duim (thumb)
    Wijsvinger (pointing finger)
    Middelvinger (middle finger)
    Ringvinger (ring finger)
    Pink (pinky finger)

  8. Toño says:

    In spanish:

    Thumb: Pulgar
    Index finger: Índice (index)
    Middle finger: Medio / Cordial (middle/cordial – from latin ‘corde’-heart)
    Ring finger: Anular (from latin ‘annularis’ – the ring one)
    Little finger: Meñique (like, something little)

  9. In Portuguese:

    Thumb: Polegar
    Index finger: Indicador (“pointer”)
    Middle finger: do Meio (“of the middle”)
    Ring finger: anular (“ring”)
    Little finger: mínimo (“minimal”)

    but we also have affective/informal names for two of them:
    Thumb: dedão (“big finger”)
    Little finger: mindinho (something probably meaningless + “-inho”, a diminutive suffix)

    “mindinho” is much used. Even more than “mínimo”, sometimes.

  10. Ups, by the way… The comment above is Brazilian Portuguese-related. I don’t know how this is in other Portuguese-speaking countries.

  11. BG says:

    @Polly: I use pinky, but I also live in California. I think other people in the US do as well, but I don’t know about in other English speaking countries.

  12. Helga says:

    In Russian:

    Bol’shoi (Большой) (Thumb)
    Ukazatel’nyi (Указательный) (Index finger)
    Srednji (Средний) (Middle finger)
    Bezymyannui (Безымянный) (Ring finger)
    Mizinec (Мизинец) (Little finger)

  13. TJ says:

    in Arabic:

    Thumb: ib-hám ابهام
    Index: sabbánah سبّابة
    Middle: wusTa وسطى
    Ring: bunSur بنصر
    Little: khunSur خنصر

    tataaa :)

  14. pittmirg says:

    OK, in Polish:
    Palce: (SG palec)
    1) kciuk = thumb
    2) wskazujacy (“pointing”)
    3) środkowy (“middle”)
    4) serdeczny (“cordial”)
    5) mały (“little”)

  15. Miro says:

    In Slovak it is very similar to Czech:
    1. palec
    2. ukazovák – “pointer”
    3. prostredník – “middle finger”
    4. prstenník – “ring finger”
    5. malíček – “little finger”

    Just a matter of interest, “palec” in Czech/Slovak means exclusively thumb (hand or foot), while in Polish it describes any finger.

  16. Simon says:

    Polly – pinky isn’t used in the UK, as far as I know. We usually call the smallest finger the little finger.

  17. David says:

    In Australia we say:

    1. Thumb
    2. Index Finger or just Index
    3. Middle Finger, mostly known as “rude” finger
    4. Ring Finger
    5- Pinky, little finger

  18. Alain Vaillancourt says:

    In French

    Thumb = Le pouce
    First finger = L’index
    Second finger = Le majeur
    Third finger = L’annulaire
    Fourth finger = L’auriculaire

  19. Kerry says:

    In Chinese:

    Thumb: 拇指 (As far as I know, 拇 isn’t really used in any other context, but that character is made of the radical that means “hand” and the character that means “mother”.)
    Index finger: 食指 “eat finger”
    Middle finger: 中指 “middle finger”
    Ring finger: 無名指 “no name finger”
    Little finger: 尾指 “tail / last finger”

  20. Giovanni says:

    Here goes Italian:

    Thumb = pollice
    First finger = indice
    Second finger = medio
    Third finger = anulare
    Fourth finger = mignolo

  21. Max Pinton says:

    A couple small corrections on the Japanese:

    ぼし is 拇指, not 母指. As Kerry mentioned, 拇 just means thumb, so “thumb finger.”
    小指 is koyubi (no long o).

    Wikipedia says that pinky/pinkie is from Dutch. Interesting that American and Scottish English use it, but English English doesn’t.

  22. renato figueiredo says:

    José, tu fizeste ótima transcrição dos nomes. Com relação ao “anular” o correto, pelo menos no Brasil é anelar (de anel) e não anular de apagar
    José, You made a very good transliteration of the names in Portuguese, with only one mistake the correct, specialy in Brazil is anelar for the third finger (it comes from anel=ring) and not anular, which is a verb meaning cancel.

  23. renato figueiredo says:

    José sorry, I were right anular is the correct form. I made a mistake.
    José desculpe-me, tu estavas certo, anular é a forma correta eu errei.

  24. The middle finger is also called _(dedo)_médio_ in Portuguese. And the Latin _impudicus_ does not mean “gesticulator” or anything like it, but rather “indecent” – from giving someone the finger, in mediaeval (if not Roman) times as today! ;-)

  25. JHosé & Renato: Indeed, _anular_ is “related to a ring”, while _anelar_ is “ring-shaped”. ;-)

  26. BG says:

    It’s interesting how the Latin “polex” seems to become not only the Romance Languages’ word but also the (Western at least) Slavic for thumb (or finger). Sometimes I notice odd connections between Latin words and Slavic words where Germanic is something different:

    Novosibirsk – New Sibiria/ novus – new

    Of course in this case Germanic isn’t too much different.

  27. Polly says:

    How funny that we take our word for the “little finger” from Dutch – Pinky. While the UK, being much closer, doesn’t.

    Do they “give the finger” in the UK? i.e. sticking up only the middle finger in a gesture of anger and insult.

    Sory to be so scatalogical.

  28. Alon Levy says:

    In Hebrew, the names are,
    Thumb – agudál
    Index – etsba
    Middle – ama
    Ring – qmitsa
    Pinky – zéret
    The word etsba means finger in general, so the index finger can be referred to as etsba morá, morá meaning pointing. But it’s just as possible to refer to them numerically, as first through fifth finger.

  29. Simon says:

    Polly – in the UK the equivalent of “giving the finger” is to stick two finger up at someone (the index and middle fingers) – the v for victory sign reversed. The single finger gesture is also used to some extent and understood.

  30. P Terry Hunt says:

    Interesting that that the third finger appears to be the “ring” finger in most of the Indo-European language examples here (Polish being one exception), but something else in many of the non-IE ones.

    I wonder if this indicates something about Proto-IE culture? Since of course languages and cultures can spread independently, there must doubtless be some cross-cultural muddying of the waters.

    I love the shameless Latin name Auricularis! Of course, everyone does this, but not all cultures were/are so up front about it.

    Polly, the US adoption of the Dutch ‘pink[y]‘ is not really surprising: New York was prevously New Amsterdam and Dutch was once its commoner language – a great many place names in the area are of Dutch derivation, though they may have been re-rendered into apparent English form. I know this not from deep linguistic erudition, but from being a great fan of Ed McBain’s ’87th Precinct’ police-procedural stories. [For the bibliophiles, 'Ed McBain' was a pseudonym of Salvatore A Lombino, who later legally changed his name to another of his nommes des plume, Evan Hunter.]

    I wonder what other New York / US slang is of Dutch origin?

    Terry

  31. Stuart says:

    Actually, the word pinky is used in England. I generally use it and hear other people use it.

  32. ulas says:

    Turkish:

    Thumb: Baş parmak (head finger)
    Index finger: İşaret parmağı (sign / pointing finger)
    Middle Finger: Orta parmak (middle finger)
    Ring Finger: Yüzük parmağı (ring finger)
    Little finger: Serçe parmağı (sparrow finger)

    For pinky usage at USA…might have been the Dutch immigrant influence. The word Santa Claus also comes from Dutch.

  33. Polly says:

    @Simon – Thanks again. Now I know how not to get in trouble in the UK. That ‘V’ is like the “Peace” sign, here.
    You and Stuart must be in different parts.

    @P Terry Hunt and ulas: Good point. I forgot about the Dutch colony of New York.

  34. laci says:

    Hungarian:
    ujj = finger
    hüvelykujj = thumb
    mutatóujj = index
    középsőujj = middle
    gyűrűsujj = ring
    kisujj = little

    the only finger that has a peculiar name is the thumb, but I don’t know much about it’s etimology

    Esperanto:

    dikfingro/polekso = thumb
    montra-fingro = index
    mezfingro = middle
    ringa-fingro = ring
    etfingro = little

    polekso is less used.

  35. Stuart says:

    Hi Polly

    Actually, both Simon and I are from the same town – Brighton, so I think the use of pinky is just down to personal preference. Of the two (pinky v little finger) I would say that the latter is more common but pinky is certainly not unknown.

  36. I note that an old Sephardic text, “Meam Loez” refers to each finger having a purpose:

    the little finger used for the ear
    the ring finger being used for the eyes (esp. inside corner)
    the middle finger being used for the nostrils (?)
    the index finger used to point
    the thumb being used for the jaw/back teeth

  37. Polly says:

    Stuart, thanks for the clarification.

  38. Daniel says:

    Interesting:

    Thumb in Spanish is “pulgar” while inch is “pulgada” which would be similar to something like “thumbed out (distance).” Since it’s an English unit, I imagine ancient Spaniards looked at the length of an inch and thought it was about the size of a thumb and then it worked its way into the language that way. ¿Vale?

  39. Here they are in Greek:

    αντίχειρας (= hand-opposite)
    δείκτης (= pointer)
    μέσος (= middle)
    παράμεσος (= beside-middle)
    μικρός (= little)

  40. Ilkka says:

    And in Finnish:

    Thumb – peukalo
    Index – etusormi (=front finger)
    Middle – keskisormi (=middle finger)
    Ring – nimetön (=nameless)
    Pinky – pikkurilli (=small rilli)

  41. renato figueiredo says:

    This week I found the fingers name in Tetun the language of East Timor, it is very interesting
    limafuan-boot thumb
    limafuan-hatudu forefinger
    limafuan-ki.ik little finger, pinkie
    limafuan-klaran middle finger
    limanfuan-kadeli ring finger

  42. Robert Eaglestone says:

    So where did Dutch ‘pinkje’ come from? Can it be related to PIE *penkweros?

  43. Jens Schultz says:

    The danish version:

    Thumb – Tommelfinger
    Index – Pegefinger
    Middle – Langemand (Long man)
    Ring – Guldbrand (Gold finger)
    Pinky – Lillefinger

  44. Laura Christiensen says:

    Portuguese (Brazil & Portugal)

    FORMAL:

    Thumb = Polex / Polegar
    First finger = Index / Indicador, Indigitador
    Second finger = Medius / Médio
    Third finger = Annularius, Annularis / Anular
    Fourth finger = Minimus / Mínimo

    INFORMAL:

    Thumb = Dedão, Digitão, Positivo e Operante, Legalzin, Certin, Tudo-Certo, Tudo-Bem, Tá-Ok

    Index = Apontador, Demonstrador, Ponteiro, Pontudo, Aponta-tudo, Q. I., Q Indica, Índice

    Middle = Do Meio, Maior, Feio, Impudico, Pornodígito, Pornô, Obsceno, Rude, De Mostrar, Maioral.

    Ring = De Compromisso, De Pôr Anel, Nupcial, De Aliança Matrimonial, Anelar, Esponsal

    Pinky = Mindinho, Piquiticu, Menorzin, Miudinho, Miudin, Mignon, Auricular

    JOCOSE & PUERILE (SONG)

    Thumb = Mata-Insecto, Esmaga-Bicho, Esmaga-Besouro, Mata-Piolho, Mata-Lêndea (Bug Killer, Bug Smasher, Squeezer, Lice Killer)

    Index = Fura-Bolo, Tira-Creme, Cutuca-Bolo, Perfura-Gâteau (Cake Piercer, Cream Taker)

    Middle = Pai de Todos, Maioral, Frater Maior, Irmão mais velho, Manda-chuva, Chefão (The other fingers Dad, The Big Brother, Big Boss)

    Ring = Seu Vizinho, Imediato Vizinho, Mindin Adjacente (Pinky’s Neighbour)

    Pinky = Mindinho, Mindin, Frater Menor, Irmão mais Novo, Caçulinha (Pinkie, Little Brother)

  45. Ptguy says:

    The informal names of the last message are ok just in Brazil. In Portugal we don’t use almost of them.

    thumb: polegar
    index: indicador
    second finger: dedo médio/do meio
    third fincer: anelar
    fourth finger: mínimo, mindinho

    informal: “Dedo mindinho, seu vizinho, pai de todos, fura bolos, mata piolhos”; or then, dedo mindinho (pinky), seu vizinho (ring), pai de todos (middle), fura bolos (index), mata piolhos (thumb)

    “Dar dois dedos de conversa”: to chat for a little.

  46. Malaya says:

    in Inuktitutt

    kuluu – thumb
    tikii – index finger
    kittittii – middle finger
    mikilira – ring finger
    ikkiku – baby finger

  47. michael zeide says:

    We are writing a limited edition (300-500 copies) self-published book on the hand and fingers and would like your permission to reproduce your contributions.

    Of course, appropriate acknowledgment will be made.

  48. Sara Acera says:

    A longer explanation on the Spanish terms (taken from RAE dictionary):

    Thumb: Pulgar (from Latin, fat finger, and is sometimes called that way: “dedo gordo”, fat finger)

    Index finger: Índice (index). Also valid, but scarcely used, are “mostrador” (the one that shows) and “saludador” (the one that greets)

    Middle finger: Corazón (literally heart), but also “cordial” (from Latin heart) and “medio” (middle)

    Ring finger: Anular (from latin ‘annularis’ – the ring one). RAE also lists “médico” (doctor finger) but I haven’t heard or read it; it’s funny Japanese also say it’s related to medicine…

    Little finger: Meñique (means very small). RAE also lists “auricular” (as the explicit Latin auricularis), but I haven´t seen that used ever… maybe in other locations someone uses it.