If you want to show someone that you’re hoping for good luck in English speaking countries, all you need to do is cross your fingers.
But in Germany this gesture won’t work, in fact, you might get a few strange looks if you cross your fingers for someone. That’s because there’s a completely different idiom and hand gesture to go with it when you’re hoping for the best for someone.
Instead of crossing their fingers, Germans press their thumbs.
So rather than telling someone that you’re crossing your fingers for them, you would say: “Ich drücke dir die Daumen.” This translates literally as: “I’ll press my thumbs for you” but means “I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.”
Not always, but sometimes this saying is accompanied with a hand gesture where you press the thumb down into the palm of the hand and wrap all your fingers around it, making a fist round your thumb.
Our file picture shows the pressing of thumbs for good luck. Photo: Shelley Pascual.
So where does this thumb pushing come from? Apparently this gesture dates back to the time of the ancient Romans. It was said that during gladiator fights pushing thumbs into the fist meant audience members were expressing their sympathy for a gladiator in the hope that the fighter would remain alive.
However, the origin is debatable. Some sources say there's an old tale that the thumb is the finger that brings luck so that's why it's used in this way.
Others say the thumb is a symbol of a goblin so if it is held firmly down by the other fingers, this gesture can bring good luck.
Whatever you believe, you can be sure that this gesture and saying is the correct way to wish for the best for someone in Germany.
Ich drücke dir die Daumen.
I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
Ich habe heute meine Fahrschulprüfung. Bitte drückt mir die Daumen.
I have my driving test today, please keep your fingers crossed for me.
Ich drücke dir die Daumen, dass du schnell wieder gesund wirst.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you recover quickly.
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