OK sign and thumb-up sign. Are they still offensive in certain parts of the world?

I’m interested to know if the curled-index-finger-into -the -thumb sign or OK sign is still insulting in Greece, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and Russia as some websites claim. I am also interested to know whether the thumb-up sign is insulting in most African countries as some websites claim. I would appreciate some fact-checking on these claims. No doubt these gestures will cause offense among some ethnic groups and segments of society but I have yet to see it for myself. I look forward to your feedback

This link is rather helpful:

If anyone knows of other useful, credible links, I would appreciate it.

I know the “OK” sign was offensive to Brazilians 20 years ago, and I don’t have any reason to think that has changed.

Note on that list they get the “V” sign wrong. The way the girls in the photo are making it is fine, and is the same way that Churchill made the “V for Victory sign,” with palm facing out. The way that is offensive (mainly in the UK and countries related to it, but not the US or Canada) is with the palm facing in, which basically means “Up yours.”

Very useful link. Thanks.

Here’s a current web page stating that the OK sign is obscene in Brazil, so I think that can be assumed to be true.

Have a look at this link. The OK sign is given differently in the video. It’s not the typical way we use the OK sign. I’m just going by the video link as a demonstration.



Since that’s the same position it’s given in my link, that may be typical of Brazil. They would probably still equate it with the OK sign in the US position.

I’ll assume any way you use the OK sign in Brazil is offensive.

I’m really curious to know how these countries respond to American movies. Are the offending gestures censored/brushed out or just ignored? Take the thumb-up gesture. It’s
an offense in Australia. How do Australians deal with this gesture in movies?

I meant to say it’s considered offensive to give the thum-up in Australia.

In my personal experience of Australians, the response to seeing an obscene gesture in a movie would be to laugh like buggers.:slight_smile:

Since I haven’t found any information that explicitly tells me who is Australia is offended by the thunk-up gesture, I’ll assume it’s everyone. I would appreciate some feedback on that point. It’s hard to believe that among Anglophones that share a common enough culture, that the thumb-up used in Britain, Ireland and America is offensive in Australia. Is it an offense in New Zealand?

I think you’re right. But it still begs the question as to why all the fuss? I believe Nixon got into hot water for giving two thumbs up, not realizing it was offensive.

The V “up yours” seems to have died a death in Ireland, seemingly long since supplanted by the middle finger gesture. It’s funny because I recall a time in my life where the middle finger was considered corny and American and the V sign was genuinely offensive. Nowadays the V sign has very little currency, especially among younger folk. The cover of the Commitmentsfilm is the last time I recall seeing a V sign in a local context.

It is absolutely not offensive in Australia. It is a positive gesture, same as in the US.

It used to be mildly offensive, but the last time I ever saw it used in such a way was in the 1970s. Even by then it was old-fashioned.

If you watch old UK TV shows like “Dad’s Army” or “Are You Being Served?” you will occasionally see an older person using the thumbs up as a (mild) rude gesture, but never these days.

The two-finger salute took over as the main offensive gesture, which in turn has been almost completely replaced by the US-style middle finger.

Regarding the thumb up sign

Thanks. This link confirms it’s not offensive in Australia




The Meaning of the Thumbs-up Hand Gesture Around the World

Nov 02, 2008183,692

Hand gestures mean different things in different countries. What is considered a cool sign may be a grave insult in another country. This article takes a look at one of the most common signs: the thumbs-up sign.
The thumbs-up sign consists of a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward. The most common interpretation of this sign is as a sing of approval (there is even a metaphor in English: The proposal was given a thumbs-up), but there are some countries where it may be an insult or where it will not be understood.
The origin of the sign is unclear, but one theory is that the thumbs up sign was used by the crowds to signal if a defeated gladiator should be spared, whereas the thumbs down would signal that he should be killed.
Let’s have a look at different countries and what the thumbs-up sign means there:
Australia - If it is still or downwards, it usually means OK or alright (or agreement). Thumbs-up with a little upward motion can be a grave insult, depending on context.
Canada - The sign means alright or good. you can use it to signify approval.

China - OK, good.
Egypt - Perfect, good
France - OK.
Germany - Ok, well done, great.
Greece - Means great, good job, OK, congratulations.
Iran - Very obscene gesture.
Iraq - Very obscene gesture.
Ireland - OK, good.
Italy - OK, go or alright or used for hitchhiking.
Japan - Sometimes means ‘‘good’’, not widely practiced by adults.
New Zealand - Means like all good, or yes or anything positive really (when hitchhiking this gesture is also used but held right out so people in cars can see).
Russia - Well done, good.
Spain - All right.
Sweden - OK, great.
Thailand - Very obscene gesture.
Turkey - Not used.
United Kingdom - OK, good.
USA - Means ‘‘great’’ or ‘‘awesome’’ or whatever. Also used to sign approval, but stronger than an OK sign.
Please note that meaning of gestures varies among various parts of countries and also among cultural groups and between generations.


Ummm, No. I’m not sure what the downwards bit means, if you point the thumb down that means ungood, thumbs up means good.

Back in the 1970’s the was a period when if you did the upraised thumb and motioned it toward someone in a raising motion it had derogatory meaning, in that it was meant to be “Up yours”, as in “Stick this up your arse” but unless you’re unlucky enough to run into an old shearer in a country pub who’s looking for an excuse to take offence at you, you would generally have no issues with the Thumbs Up in Australia

This. I was born in 1972 and I’ve never heard of the thumbs up being considered offensive. If you run into anyone who does they will probably be telling you to get off their lawn as well.


"But President Nixon never visited Australia. Nor did President Ford. Not did President Carter. Nor did President Reagan. After that visit in December 1967, no serving US President visited Australia again until the very end of 1991 when President George H.W. Bush made a visit. "