It's clear that gestures are particularly rich in Italian's way of communication, and this is often observed by foreigners. But some of them are shared with other countries, while others seem to be more peculiar.

Is there an "official vocabulary" of Italian gestures? Can they be regarded as an addition to the spoken language?

  • I couldn't find a proper way to tag this question, but I hope it's on-topic.
    – clabacchio
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:06
  • Do you mean the “lingua dei segni” for deaf people? If so, there certainly is a vocabulary of its gestures (see it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_dei_segni_italiana). If you refer to informal gestures accompanying speech, which vary from region to region, town to town, person to person, obviously there is no possible “official vocabulary”. Even (verbal) words have no a definite, complete, official list, as they are in continuous variation!
    – DaG
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:18
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    In general, for linguistic phenomena, there cannot be anything “official”. They are part of human behaviour. Is there an official list of feelings or mood?
    – DaG
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:18
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    @DaG I'm referring to gestures that accompany the spoken language: and I think that, although it changes over time, there are "official" codes: you couldn't have a common language otherwise. I'm not meaning that it should be an "exclusive" code, but a list of generally recognized signs. I'm not a linguist, but I don't agree that there are no formal definitions.
    – clabacchio
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:20
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    I think he refers to the common and informal gestures regarded as typical of Italians, not to the language for deaf people. I'm not so sure that this isn't a cliché anyway (are really Italians using hand gestures more that others?)
    – martina
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:39

3 Answers 3


Lots of people share an interest, at different levels, on this topic. Some (mostly random) info from the internet:

  1. L'italiano "dei gesti", lingua conosciuta in tutto il mondo
  2. L'importanza dei gesti nella lingua italiana
  3. Cultura italiana – Gesti italiani: Parlare senza parole
  4. Gli italiani parlano con le mani
  6. Perché amiamo i gesti caldi e spontanei della lingua italiana
  7. I gesti degli italiani: parlare … con le mani
  8. I Gesti delle Mani: al confine di universi linguistici e limiti nella comunicazione
  9. Linguaggio italiano delle mani
  10. Quando un gesto vale più di mille parole
  11. Italiani, l'arte del linguaggio dei gesti. Il Nyt: "Parlate con le mani come con la voce"
  14. La competenza passiva di gesti simbolici italiani tra studenti d’italiano presso l’Università di Lund
  15. La gestualità, forme alternative di comunicazione

Some of the links above present a list of gestures that are considered "typically Italian". Whether or not this is a cliché I can't say.

By googling on Scholar more elaborated ideas can be obtained, I don't think it would be on topic to discuss them here as the possible answers are very many and mostly subjective - and this is not a forum.

  • So you'd say that Italians use hand gestures more than others?
    – martina
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:44
  • @martina, not necessarily, Chinese for example might have similar traditions, as well as Arabians or Indians. But I do not have any source for that, just a vague idea.
    – user193
    Dec 19, 2013 at 11:03
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    @DaG, I have removed my unnecessary hypothesis. The point is that the question probably asks too much and this is not a forum - we could stay here debating for ever on this topic. What matters here is that this is an interesting question and lots of people, from blogs to newspapers to academic papers, are currently discussing about it. Some of the links I suggested present a list of gestures that are considered "typically Italian".
    – user193
    Dec 19, 2013 at 19:35
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    It's definitely not a cliché. Few Italians don't complement their spoken language with gestures, often even when they are not visible by the people they're talking to: youtube.com/watch?v=7Z8CBO-KnjM (this video will look hilarious to foreigners but it's not weird for us). Many simple concepts can be - and sometimes are - expressed by gestures alone, but it's not like the Sign Language used by deaf people, it's much more informal and fuzzy. Jan 15, 2014 at 15:12
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    I also want to add that a lot of gestures do not have a "meaning", they are like the bullets, arrows, boxes etc. used in PowerPoint presentations. It's a way to organise a speech. When something must be stressed, you may move your hand up and down with thumb and finger united, when you are just making a secondary point you may move your hands on a side ("on a side note"...), when you say "on one hand... but on the other hand" you may show one hand and then the other... I hope it's clear. Jan 15, 2014 at 15:17

I find most of these to be an accurate description of my hand gestures:

Part 1: http://wannareadyou.com/assets/images/italiangestures1.jpg Part 2: http://laughterizer.weebly.com/uploads/5/0/9/8/5098219/9964033.jpg?644

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    half of these signs are alien for me...
    – mau
    Jan 30, 2014 at 8:47
  • one third of these gestures make no sense on their own to me... Feb 11, 2014 at 21:19

Searching for "dizionario dei gesti" or similar I obtained some results (for example a book by "Caon Fabio"), but I never heard of an 'official' dictionary.

Here is the reference to this book:

Fabio Caon: Dizionario dei gesti degli italiani. Una prospettiva interculturale (Guerra Edizioni, 2010).

For every gesture, there is a photograph, its physical description, its meaning, the contexts in which it can be used and some verbal expressions that can accompany it.

  • Can you give a reference to the book? It'd be anyway useful in order to build an answer.
    – martina
    Dec 19, 2013 at 10:00
  • @martina video sul tubo e qualche anteprima
    – Leggy7
    Jan 30, 2014 at 8:37

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