Mano Fico (Fig Gesture)

The Mano Fico (fig hand, properly, ‘mano fica’) is an ancient obscene gesture, and is also one of the better known protective gestures against the eye. The thumb and fist gesture is an ancient representation of sexual union. The name is from the Italian word for the female vulva, fica, meaning fig (and also the origin of a well-known English obscenity).

The fig was associated by the Romans with female fertility and eroticism; the fruit was sacred to Bacchus. The gesture is used against the evil eye in the belief that an obscenity serves as a distraction to evil, even that demons are so repelled by the notion of sex and reproduction that they flee at the sign.

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Religious Symbol Dictionary |
November 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm


tunca January 15, 2019 at 3:50 am

this has same meaining with middle finger in Turkish region. call it “nah”

I February 8, 2018 at 10:03 am

Is the well-known English curse word supposed to be “fuck”? I think readers are adult enough to allow that word to be reference directly instead of a workaround like that. This is akin to not using curse words to explain a curse word in a dictionary… Counterproductive.

Jennifer July 15, 2018 at 11:42 pm

This dictionary was originbally written for an NYT operated, mainstream website. Feel free to complain to my former editor, if you can find him. I’m sure you’ll survive the lack of profanity. :P

Phoenix June 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm

The f-word (which I’m guessing you’re referring to as the well-known obscenity) is of Germanic origin, not an alteration of ‘FICA’.

John April 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

FYI – Some of the Cherubs on the celling of the Sistine Chapel are giving the Fig sign. I know Michelangelo was not on the best of terms with the Pope so I do not know if this hidden meaning is good or bad. You have to look closely because they are mostly in secondary or less prominent, background figures.

Tirimul Parikejang May 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm

An interesting “mano in fica” carved on a Portuguese canon in Indonesia:

lishou December 20, 2013 at 8:06 am

I quite like looking through an article that will make people think.
Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

David September 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I saw many small statues of this in Brazil. I was told it is a symbol that originated among African slaves. I think it was for good luck.

aitheria December 5, 2013 at 5:47 pm

this was a rude gesture used as far back as the Romans. To ‘give someone the fig’ was similar in meaning as giving someone the middle finger today.

Carol May 22, 2016 at 5:23 am

Hey David, I’m brazilian and this sign is for good luck over here. We have two “figas”, the one in the picture and the simple crossed finger. Both have the same meaning to tell some actor to brake his leg (or neck). When someone says “wish me luck!” we cross our fingers, one way or another. It’s a very popular sign, you’ll find this in statues and charms. And when you distract the evil from someone, aren’t you wishing them luck? And helping in some way?
And over here Figa is for the sign and figo for the fruit.

Jennifer February 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I don’t see any reason to consider it bad luck. I’m also pretty sure there aren’t any conventions about the potion of a tattoo, although pointing downward IS traditional. :)

Daniela February 7, 2010 at 6:35 am

Hi was just curious about more informationa about the mano fico as i want to get a tattoo of it and i’ve heard it should always be facing down , with the right hand. Should it also be in certain position? centered on the neck etc. Do you think it is back luck to have it tattooed .

I February 8, 2018 at 10:00 am

Anything can be bad luck of you believe in it.

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