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The middle finger gesture originated from medieval times. English bowmen had their middle fingers cut off by the French if captured because that was the finger they used to draw the long bow. It was a taunt from all those who survived to show they still had their middle fingers.

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Wiki User

15y ago
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Wiki User

16y ago

In the middle ages archers needed their middle fingers to shoot their arrows. When enemies captured the archers they would cut off their middle finger so if they escaped they couldn't be an archer anymore. So when archers w/ their middle fingers saw the enemy they would wave their middle finger in the air to taunt them

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Wiki User

12y ago

"It is a result of the Hundred Years War between England and France from 1337-1453 . The English longbow was so feared by the French that anytime they captured an English bowman they would cut his middle finger off so they would be unable to use a bow ever again. After a battle the English would hold up their middle finger to show the French they would be able to continue fighting which was a sort of medieval F you."

The above answer is not only false (and ridiculous), it's copied from an equally ridiculous email. Do not get your information from mass emails. The middle finger was insulting in ancient Rome, and ancient Greece before that. The Romans referred to the middle finger as 'digitus impudicus' (insulting finger) and the Greeks used it in theatre. The English/French claim is an urban myth that never happened. French warriors did not capture English bowmen to cut off their fingers.

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Aubrey O' Wakefield

Lvl 2
4y ago

In the wars between the English and French in the Middle Ages the English longbow men were greatly feared by the French. The obscene hand sign that the English bowmen used to do to the French was hold up their index finger and middle finger in (what looks like a reverse peace sign now). It symbolised that they still had their two useful fingers to rain down arrows on the French ranks. If the French caught them they would chop these fingers off thus disabling the archers. This two fingered salute is still very much in use today in the U.K. , Aus, and NZ and means F.O. Or F.Y. The origins of the middle finger may also have come from the same place.

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Q: What is the origin of the Middle finger obscene gesture?
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The origin of giving someone "the finger" came from back when bow and arrows were used in wars, prisoners would get there middle fingers chopped of because back then soldiers only used their middle finger to pull back the bow. As a pride thing the other side would hold up their middle finger to taunt the enemy. It wasn't until later that the gesture evolved into what it is today.


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The origin of the middle-finger gesture is interesting. It comes from a gesture made by medieval archers. Let me explain. Medieval archers used the long bow, and to pull the string back required the strength of both the middle finger and the index finger. The main strength, though, came from the middle one. Try it, and you'll see. Now, when, during the Hundred Years War, for example, the English wanted to show how many archers they had killed during a battle, they would first go about the field cutting off the middle fingers of the dead archers, or, as the case might be, those archers injured but still alive and considered a future threat. They knew that cutting off the middle finger was enough. Without that one, the index finger would be useless. Therefore, when an archer wanted to threaten or taunt the opposing army before the start of a battle, he would hold up his middle finger from across the field as if to say, "Hah, hah! I still have what I need to put an arrow through your heart!" The so-called "peace sign" originates from the same gesture, although some would argue it comes from the shape of a dove's toes. But remember, the "V" sign was being made long before the peaceniks were using it: Churchill used it to mean "Victory!" He was making it correctly, for his two fingers hearkened back to the medieval gesture: some archers, remember, would hold up both their fingers--if they still had both. It is ironic that those who put up two fingers to indicate a peaceful intent are actually threatening the lives--they do not know this, of course, of those they are gesturing at.


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