The Digitus Impudicus

The middle finger is a commonly used gesture in modern society, often used to express anger or frustration towards someone or something  but can also be used humorously or playfully.  It involves simply raising the middle finger of one's hand while keeping the other fingers closed, making it a simple and effective way to convey a message. 

The History of The Middle Finger

Well, turns out that the middle finger gesture is not a modern introduction to civilization at all!

Going back all the way to the time of Ancient Greeks, the symbol was used as a phallic symbol meant to represent the male genitalia. In fact, anthropologist Desmond Morris has been quoted saying that:

"The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. By doing it, you are offering someone a phallic gesture. It is saying, 'this is a phallus' that you're offering to people, which is a very primeval display."

The Romans also had a special name for it: digitus impudicus. When translated, it would mean the ‘unchaste or shameless finger ’ .

There’s another very interesting (but also grotesque) theory around the origin of this gesture which claims that during Battle of Agincourt in 1415 between France and Britain, the French soldiers would chop off the middle as well as the index finger of the British archers since both these are important when it comes to shooting arrows. When the French failed to do so, the British soldiers would often show them the two fingers while shouting ‘pluck yew’ given that their bows were made from the yew tree.


It’s tough to narrow down where the F-word actually came from. Some sources say it dates back to the Middle English word “fucken,” which, among other things, meant to penetrate. Others say it comes from a German word, “ficken,” that means the same thing. There are also discussions about a Dutch word and even speculation about whether Shakespeare used a word that might have had something to do with it. Along with this eRumor there are also other creative suggestions that have no basis in history such as the F-word being an acronym for “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or “For the Use of Carnal Knowledge.”