Top 10 Irish hand gestures you’d better get right

From signals of gratitude to displays of exasperation, hand gestures in Ireland can be used for various reasons. So, here are ten Irish hand gestures you’d better get right.

Whether you’re communicating with someone through a window or there just aren’t enough words to express what you want to say, hand gestures can come in handy for various reasons.

The Irish are experts at the subtle communication technique of hand gestures. So, for someone on the outside looking in, it can be hard to understand what they all mean.

So, whether you’re wondering what that Irish person meant when they waved at you from their car or you just want to learn a new way to communicate in Ireland, here are ten Irish hand gestures you’d better get right.

10. The cheers hand – a simple way to thank another driver

Many Irish people will give the 'thanks' hand gesture to other drivers.
Credit: Meanwhile in Ireland

Kicking off our list of Irish hand gestures you’d better get right is the simple but effective ‘cheers’ hand.

To say thanks to another driver for letting you pass or for letting you out at a junction, you don’t even have to take your hands off the steering wheel.

All you have to do is raise four fingers in a subtle wave and give a little smile or nod of acknowledgement.

9. The modest wave – for when you see someone you don’t know that well

The modest wave is often used for people you don't know so well.
Credit: Pixabay / ErikaWittlieb

Whether you see someone you recognise but aren’t sure from where or bump into an acquaintance you haven’t seen in years, the modest wave can prove very useful in awkward situations.

Just a slight raise of the hand to test the waters and see if they’ll acknowledge you back. It’s a win-win: if they notice and wave back, then you can save feeling like you’ve been rude.

However, if they don’t acknowledge it, you can play it off as batting away a fly.

8. The excited wave – for when you see your close friend, a child, or an animal

The excited wave is one of the most common Irish hand gestures.

Unlike the modest wave above, the excited wave is an obvious show of acknowledgement for getting either your best friend, a child, or an animal.

Defined by over-enthusiastic flailing limbs, the excited wave is used to show the other person how excited you are to see them.

7. The exasperated hand gesture – when you’re frustrated

Everyone has done the exasperated hand at some point.

This hand gesture can be used both on and off the road. Drivers will typically use one hand to display exasperation (unless in extreme circumstances), and those not driving will typically use two.

The exasperated hand gesture sees a quick flick of the wrist in the direction of the person you’re gesturing to leave your palm facing slightly upwards. This has a similar meaning to the chin flick in Italian hand gestures.

6. A slow hand clap – as sarcastic as it gets

A slow hand clap is one of the most common Irish hand gestures.

The Irish are known for their sarcastic nature, and it really doesn’t get more sarcastic than a slow hand clap.

This is often utilised when someone makes an obvious statement or does something stupid.

5. Shaking fist – when you’re even more frustrated

Irish people will also use their fists to show their frustration.
Credit: Flickr / Bradley Gordon

When the wrist-flicking exasperated hand gesture just won’t cut it, many Irish people may opt for the more aggressive shaking fist gesture.

Often used by drivers or people who are so frustrated that they’re lost for words.

4. Fingers crossed – hope for good luck

Fingers crossed is one of the Irish hand gestures you'd better get right.

In Ireland, many people will cross their fingers to wish for good luck. Often, this gesture will be accompanied by literally saying, “Fingers crossed!”

For example, “Fingers crossed my numbers come up in the lottery tonight!”

3. Peace sign – one of the Irish hand gestures you’d better get right

Make sure you don't do the peace sign wrong!

Now, the peace sign is a hand gesture used in many countries throughout the world. It was originally a ‘V’ sign for victory. However, anti-war protesters then adopted the sign as a symbol of peace.

Many people in Ireland (especially young girls) will make this hand gesture for photos. Just make sure you get it the right way round, so you don’t wind up offending anyone. Palms facing out!

2. Thumbs-up – a common Irish hand gesture

The thumbs up is one of the most common Irish hand gestures.

The thumbs-up is one of the most common hand gestures you will see in Ireland. People will use it as a sign that they’ve received good news or that they agree with what you’re saying.

In typically Irish sarcastic nature, some may even use the thumbs-up to say they completely disagree with what you’re saying. Not to confuse you or anything, mind you!

1. The one-fingered salute – a common hand gesture on Irish roads

The one finger salute is one of the most common Irish hand gestures.
Credit: Meanwhile in Ireland

When it comes to Irish hand gestures you better get right, the one that is universally used throughout Ireland is undoubtedly the one-fingered salute.

Often used by drivers (particularly in the country) to acknowledge someone they know, to say thanks, or to allow pedestrians across the road, this Irish hand gesture is one you won’t miss.