Snap (fingers)

Snapping (or clicking) one's fingers is the act of creating a cracking/clicking sound with one's fingers. Primarily this is done by building tension between the thumb and another (middle, index, or ring) finger and then moving the other finger forcefully downward so it hits the palm of the same hand at a high speed. Alternatively, one can press the middle finger and thumb together and then fling the index finger into them.

A video of a person snapping their fingers.
Alternative snapping technique



The sound of the snap is created as a result of one of the fingers coming into contact with a groove, thus forcing the air out with an audible crack which resonates in the curved shape of the palm.[1] Primarily the groove is between a second finger and the palm. The friction of the fingers rubbing together can be heard briefly before the snap, as a whisking sound. All fingers can be used for snapping.[1] Alternatively, the groove can be between the middle finger and the thumb.

In culture

God Pan and a Maenad dancing. Ancient Greek red-figured olpe from Apulia, ca. 320–310 BCE. Pan's right hand fingers are in a snapping position

In Ancient Greece snapping of fingers was used by musicians and dancers as a way to keep the rhythm[2] and it was known with the words "ἀποληκέω" (apolekeo),[3] "ἀποκρότημα" (apokrotema)[4] (from the verb "ἀποκροτέω" - apokroteo, "to snap the fingers")[5] and "ἐπίπταισμα" (epiptaisma).[6] Snapping of fingers is also very usual between modern Greeks.

Finger snapping may be used as a substitute for hand clapping. The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club has a long tradition of doing this. In their club's history they state: "The reason behind this (as legend goes) is you can't clap and hold a beer [at the same time]! Another possible reason is that snapping is less disruptive than clapping during speeches and announcements." [7]

Snapping one's fingers abruptly and repetitively, often in conjunction with one or more spoken exclamations, is commonly employed in securing someone else's attention.

In nursing

When a patient comes to the hospital with severe condition and shock, or in a state of unconsciousness, snapping fingers is employed by the nurse in the audibility assessment to determine the current state of the seriouness of the condition and to help in the treatment mode. It is similar to calling the name of the patient to arouse him from the unconscious state.

In music

In Sumatran culture, finger snapping, along with chest slapping, is a common form of music.[8]

In Western music involving snapping of fingers, the sound of the snap is usually on 2 and 4 (like the clap).[citation needed]

The sounds of a fingersnap also are sampled and used in many disparate genres of music, used mostly as percussion; the works of Angelo Badalamenti exhibit this in the soundtracks to, e.g., Twin Peaks, Lost Highway.


  1. ^ a b "Snapping Fingers" at NEWTON/Ask A Scientist
  2. ^ Martin Litchfield West, Ancient Greek music, Oxford University Press, 199
  3. ^ ἀποληκέω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  4. ^ ἀποκρότημα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  5. ^ ἀποκροτέω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  6. ^ ἐπίπταισμα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  7. ^
  8. ^

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