Unique Arab Hand Gestures and Their Different Meanings Around the World

Via Borgo Grondaie.

We, Arabs, are widely known for our exceptional usage of hand gestures; life in the MENA region is unimaginable without this unconventional non-verbal communication system! It is part of the culture and it gets passed down from one generation to another, but some of the gestures that seem universal in our region may have a totally different meaning overseas.

So here are our picks for the most unique hand gestures from all over the region and their meanings around the world.

“Wait”/ “Oh, you’re gonna get it now..!”

So, this is one of the most ubiquitous hand gestures across the Arab world. Usually, it is used by Arab moms, when you know you messed up, and you’re gonna get it.

Also, if made with less intensity, it could mean “wait for a while.”

However, the same gesture means something completely different in Italy. It is actually one of the most Italian stereotypical gestures used worldwide. There, it means “what are you saying?”

“That’s crazy!”

Usually, when someone does something that’s unexplainable, the gesture of rotating one’s fingers near the head is made to signify how insane it is.

In Europe, it basically means the same thing; however, we Arabs use all our fingers while in Europe they only use one finger.

“Yes” and “No” reversed.

Well, to be frank, it’s not just an Arab thing; in most regions of the world, including ours, a nod means a ‘yes’ and a head shake means a ‘no’. However, in some parts of the world, such as Bulgaria and Armenia, it’s the other way around; a nod means a ‘no’ and a head shake means a ‘yes’.

“You’re in for a world of pain”

Another favorite of Arab moms, this hand gesture is made to warn the young ones that they’re about to break the last straw.

But in other parts of the world, the U.S. for instance, it means O.K. Just a simple “OK”, without any threatening involved.

“Come here”

This gesture is very similar to its Western counterpart. The only difference is that we do it with the back of our hands faced upwards using all our fingers. The gesture simply means “come here”.

In the West, the gesture is reversed with the back of the hand facing downwards, and it could mean a variety of things from “come here” to the challenging “show me what you’ve got”.


Biting your thumb in the Middle East could be made to describe that someone is being stingy. On the other hand, in Turkey, it means that something is shocking.

In Italy biting your hand, in general, means that an impending punishment awaits.

“We’re having a good time”

Usually made just before taking a picture, the ‘peace sign’ in the Arab World means that generally we are having a great time. It also means victory.

In different parts of the world, such as in Australia and the U.K, it could actually be interpreted as an offense!

WE SAID THIS: Next time you’re traveling to the Middle East, let this be your guide.