Cross Your Fingers (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Cross Your Fingers"?

The term "cross your fingers" means to hope for good luck.
Cross Your Fingers (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • This mountain pass can be dangerous in the rain. Cross your fingers that the weather stays good.
  • The promotions are being announced this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed that you're on the list.
  • Good luck for tomorrow's exam. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you.
This idiom originates from before Christianity. In other words, the cross does not refer to the cross of Jesus. The physical gesture of crossing your fingers comes from the pagan belief that a cross was a symbol of good luck. To create good luck for someone, a pagan would use their index finger to form a cross with the index finger of the other person. Over time, this gesture evolved to people summoning good luck for themselves by creating their own cross on one hand.

Competing Theory

To avoid persecution, early Christians used this gesture as a way of acknowledging each other secretly.

Crossing Fingers (Physical Gesture)

The gesture of crossing your fingers is used to negate a promise or a lie. For example:
  • "I did not take the last biscuit," Janet said with crossed fingers behind her back.
  • (Janet knows this is a lie. Her crossed fingers are meant to protect her from the consequences of lying. If later accused of lying, Janet would say "I had my fingers crossed.")
  • "I promise I will pay you back on Monday," Janet said with crossed fingers behind her back.
  • (Janet knows she might not fulfil this promise. Her crossed fingers are meant to protect her from the consequences of breaking a promise. If later challenged on breaking this promise, Janet would say "I had my fingers crossed.")

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See Also

What are idioms? What is figurative language? A list of common grammar errors A list of easily confused words A list of sayings and proverbs

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