When Donald Trump speaks in front of a crowd, he often puts his hand at shoulder level, usually far from it, and lets his palm face the crowd and pinches his thumb and index together while either closing the other fingers or keeping them all straight.

What does that gesture mean?

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  • $\begingroup$ Plain and simple—Trump is struggling with his own inadequacies of verbal expression when he uses this gesture so inappropriately. There is no precision in his speech, but he uses the gesture because he wants his audience to believe he knows what he is saying. Too bad that he has no clue of how lousy his verbal expression is. $\endgroup$
    – user25853
    Apr 26, 2020 at 1:01

1 Answer 1


Short answer
The 'OK pinch' (Fig. 1) expresses precision and control. It stresses particular phrases and shows commitment to his words.

In an interview with Psychology professor Geoffrey Beattie, communication specialist Alan Stevens addressed this point on Euro News:

EuroNews on Trump
source: Euro News

...This is probably Trump’s most well-recognized gesture – the OK pinch between the thumb and forefinger. [It] helps him show precision and control.

These batonic [Not representing anything specific] movements are stressing those bits of the message that he sees as important [...]. In some sense it’s showing commitment to what he’s saying[,] but what he’s also doing is adding an extra layer of subconscious meaning.”

Hand gestures
Fig. 1. Hand gestures. The second shows the thumb and forefinger touch. source: Fred Hatt

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just noting that body language / nonverbal communication media analyses are full of pseudoscience (eg, Denault et al, 2020), so without the underlying empirical sources of these claims, I would advise readers to exercise caution in interpreting this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jan 25, 2023 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg I can delete the answer. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jan 25, 2023 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ I think an edit would be better, as it's good for readers to be aware of the pitfalls of media representations in this field. I always appreciate your openness to feedback @AliceD. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jan 25, 2023 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg - Out of curiosity -- was the openness meant to be sarcastic? One way or another, this answer took me a long time to write up, because it was really hard to find any solid writings on this. At last I settled for the image and a dodgy reference, admittedly. That's why I was so quick to discuss deletion, because the referencing is below my standard. I just liked the Q a lot and I loved digging deeper into the matter, but I'm far from knowledgeable about the topic. Of course I can edit your comment into the answer, if that would be enough? $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jan 26, 2023 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ Definitely not sarcastic! I think it's a good answer given what is available, but also it being below standard for referencing should be mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jan 26, 2023 at 18:22

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