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Why Do We Cross Our Fingers for Good Luck?

Updated on October 11, 2016

As a child I often saw people crossing their fingers when wishing someone good luck, a visual demonstration to wish them luck with what they are about to do. l've heard the saying, ' keep everything crossed for me' and 'l've got my fingers and toes crossed for you' but have never really considered where the custom come from or why we do this.

Crossed Fingers

fingers crossed for good luck
fingers crossed for good luck | Source

Lucky Horse Shoe

Some believe horse shoes bring good luck.
Some believe horse shoes bring good luck. | Source

Why Do we Cross our Fingers?

Many cultures have symbols and gestures to signify good luck. A horseshoe given at a wedding, the finding of a four leaf clover, a rabbits foot or an acorn to name a few. The tradition of crossing your fingers for good luck is an old custom and has been practiced for hundreds of years. Today people often cross their fingers or say fingers crossed before an important event, taking a test, running a race are just a few examples, but it's historical use has been linked to warding off evil, as a secret way to identify a Christian and as a way to offer protection from illness.

Where did this custom come from?

FInger and Thumb Cross

Origins of Finger Crossing for Good Luck

Historians suggest two main theories as to the origin of the custom.

One of these links the importance of the symbol of the cross in the Pagan belief system. It was believed that good spirits could be found at the intersection of crosses so people made wishes by crossing their index finger with another persons index finger. The result would be that the good spirits would make their wish come true. This evolved into the one handed practice used today.

The alternative theory comes from the early days of Christianity when it was necessary to keep your membership secret. Followers used signs and symbols to recognize each other to avoid persecution. It was likely that this took the form of making a cross with the other person to ensure both parties were of the Christian faith. One method is thought to be involving the index finger and thumb. Both parties would hold up their thumb and index finger in the shape of an 'L'. By touching thumbs and crossing their index fingers they made a symbol similar to the Christian fish symbol used today.

Other Possibilities

Historically the crossing of fingers has also been linked to warding off of evil spirits, used to protect someone from becoming sick when they sneezed and to ask for gods protection.

Good luck 4 leaf clovers in a text message


Modern Version of Finger Crossing

The custom of crossing fingers seen today has evolved to be performed by an individual and can be both for their own good luck and when offering it to others. There is no historical evidence of how this transition from a two person to one person action came about, but it is generally believed to be from th battle fields during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Those wishing for good luck during battle needed a way to ask for good luck when there was not another individual to help them. Thus the practice of crossing your own fingers developed.

In modern times it has become customary to say 'fingers crossed' or 'I will keep my fingers crossed for you' I nstead of the actual gesture. The use of good luck symbols have even made their way into the world of the emoji!

Fingers Crossed Behind you Back


Why do we Cross our Fingers behind our Back when we Lie?

Crossing ones fingers behind your back when you tell an untruth is used to cancel out the lie. You are not guilty of the lie if your fingers are crossed. With no evidence of the reason behind this practice historians have to speculate as to its origins. One possible source is linked with the use of finger crossing as a way to indentify yourself with other Christians during times of persecution. If it was necessary to say you were not Christian for fear of punishment, crossing your fingers behind your back would take back the untruth and ask for gods blessing during this time. Another theory is by crossing your fingers behind your back you are wishing for good luck in getting away with the lie.

Do you cross your fingers for good luck?

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  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 18 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    I never really got in to crossing my fingers. And I never lied as a child. Too scared! :)

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 18 months ago

    I like the reference to the Christian fish symbol best. This was interesting to read and surely brings thought about using it for good luck.

  • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

    Ashutosh Joshi 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

    Interesting read. I believe the concept of good luck or good luck charm was always an individual idea that went viral , expect for the fact in those times there was no social media or active media for that matter, it was mostly word of mouth.

    In India, there are several practices or occurrences associated with good and bad omen. Looking at them with a more rational outlook somehow confirms that these were always individual concepts that somehow picked momentum and were passed on!

  • My Cook Book profile image

    Dil Vil 18 months ago from India

    Seriously, an interesting read. I always see many doing the same and i wonder, why so.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 18 months ago from Queensland Australia

    This was very interesting Ruthbro. I would have guessed that crossing fingers had something to do with the cross and being Christian but I had never gone into it, so this really helped to confirm that thought. Well done.