Definition of gesture noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈdʒestʃə(r)//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈdʒestʃər//
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  1. 1[countable, uncountable] a movement that you make with your hands, your head or your face to show a particular meaning He made a rude gesture at the driver of the other car. She finished what she had to say with a gesture of despair. They communicated entirely by gesture. CulturegesturesSome gestures are used by all British and American people. Many are appropriate only in informal situations; others are considered rude and some have several different meanings, depending on the context.People nod (= move the head gently down and up) to indicate 'yes'. Sometimes people nod repeatedly during a conversation to show that they agree with the speaker. Nodding at somebody can indicate that it is their turn to do something. You can also nod towards somebody or something instead of pointing with your finger. Nodding to somebody while you are talking to someone else shows that you have noticed them.Shaking the head from side to side means 'no' but can also mean disbelief, amusement or annoyance depending on the expression on the face.Thumbs up is a gesture showing approval or success. It is usually made with the thumb of only one hand. The thumb points straight up while the fingers are curled into the palm. The gesture is used to tell somebody that they can go ahead and do something, or to indicate that the person making the gesture has succeeded in something. To give somebody the thumbs up is to give them permission to do something. Thumbs down is a similar gesture but the thumb points down towards the ground. It is used by somebody to indicate they have failed to do or get something.People thumb a lift (= try to get a ride in a passing vehicle) by holding their arm out with the thumb up and slightly forward. Twiddling your thumbs (= holding the hands loosely and letting the thumbs rub gently against each other) suggests boredom or impatience. The phrase is often used metaphorically to mean ‘having nothing to do’.Pointing with the forefinger (= first finger) at somebody or something shows which person or thing you want or are talking about. But in both Britain and the US it is considered rude to point at people.People can indicate that they think somebody is mad by pointing one finger at the side of their forehead and turning it. If you hold two fingers at the side of your head like a gun you are pretending to shoot yourself for doing something silly. A finger held to the lips indicates ‘Sh!’ (= Be quiet!). If you pinch your nose you are indicating that there is a bad smell. If a child holds its thumb to its nose, with the fingers spread out and waving, they are making an insulting gesture called cocking a snook. American children move one forefinger down at right angles to the other to indicate somebody has done something bad.Fingers crossed is a wish for good luck. The middle finger is crossed over the forefinger of the same hand. In Britain people give a V-sign by holding the middle finger and forefinger apart like a V and curling the other fingers and the thumb into the palm. If the palm is held outwards the sign means 'victory' if the palm is turned inwards the gesture is rude and offensive. In the US people use the V-sign with the palm outwards to mean 'peace' but the rude version is not used. Giving somebody the finger (= holding the middle finger straight up and curling the other fingers into the palm) is used instead.Drumming your fingers, i.e. tapping them repeatedly on a desk or table, suggests impatience. Scratching your head suggests you are not sure what to do. These gestures may also be a sign that a person is nervous.When somebody waves, one arm is raised and bent slightly and the wrist is shaken. You wave when saying goodbye to somebody or as a greeting. In Britain children sometimes wave to trains, hoping that the driver will wave back. In the US children hold up their fist and move it down when a truck approaches, hoping the driver will sound the horn.People beckon somebody to come over by holding the hand with the palm up and the fingers curled loosely in, and moving the hand or just the forefinger backwards and forwards. If the person is further away the forearm is also moved.Lifting the arm is used to attract attention. In schools teachers say ‘Hands up’ when they ask a question, so that all the children get a chance to answer. Sometimes a vote can be taken by a show of hands, i.e. asking people who agree to raise their hands, and then, after they have lowered them, asking those who disagree to do the same. Adults also lift their arm to attract the attention of a waiter or a taxi driver. In Britain people stop a bus by holding one arm out at right angles while facing towards the bus.If you stand with your hands on your hips it can suggest anger or defiance. If you clench your fist (= make the hand into a tight ball) you are angry.People clap their hands to show they are pleased about something. After a concert, play, etc. they clap repeatedly to show they enjoyed it.Shrugging your shoulders shows impatience or lack of interest. It can also be used to indicate that you do not mind which of several things is chosen.People sometimes tap their feet (usually only one foot) on the floor in time to music, but more often the gesture shows that they feel impatient. Children sometimes stamp their feet when they are angry.Winking at somebody suggest a shared secret or is used as a private signal. Raising the eyebrows with the eyes wide open, or blinking (= closing and opening both eyes very quickly) several times, expresses surprise, shock, or sometimes disapproval. The phrase eyebrows were raised is often used to say that people were surprised or disapproved.Frowning may suggest concentration, but is often a sign of disapproval or annoyance. Wrinkling the nose (= moving it up and to one side) suggests there is a bad smell.Children stick their tongues out to show they do not like somebody, but this is rude. Pursing the lips, making them very small and tight, is something people may do if they are concentrating hard. Sometimes, however, it shows a person is angry but trying hard to control their anger.
  2. 2[countable] something that you do or say to show a particular feeling or intention They sent some flowers as a gesture of sympathy to the parents of the child. It was a nice gesture (= it was kind) to invite his wife too. We do not accept responsibility but we will refund the money as a gesture of goodwill. His speech was at least a gesture towards improving relations between the two countries. The government has made a gesture towards public opinion (= has tried to do something that the public will like).
  3. Word Origin late Middle English: from medieval Latin gestura, from Latin gerere ‘bear, wield, perform’. The original sense was ‘bearing, deportment’, hence ‘the use of posture and bodily movements for effect when speaking’.Extra examples He responded with a vague gesture in the direction of the beach. He waved his arms in a melodramatic gesture. His gift was a gesture of friendship. I thought it was a nice gesture to send everyone a card. In a dramatic gesture, he threw the money on the table. In a dramatic gesture, the prime minister refused to attend the meeting. Several hostages were released as a goodwill gesture. She made an expansive gesture with her arms. She waved us away with an impatient gesture. The children made rude gestures at them. The invasion attempt was intended as a political gesture against his opponents. The president’s speech was seen as a conciliatory gesture towards former enemies. They communicate entirely by gesture. Words and empty gestures are not enough—we demand action! a bold gesture of reconciliation a token gesture of their good intentions Expression and gesture are both forms of non-verbal communication. He made an obscene gesture with his hand. I stopped him with a slight gesture. It was a nice gesture to invite his wife too. She opened her arms out wide in a gesture of helplessness. The government has made a gesture towards public opinion. We do not accept responsibility but we will refund the money as a gesture of goodwill/​a goodwill gesture.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: gesture

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