Fingers Crossed – Origin & Meaning

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

One of the most confusing things new English language learners experience is the use of idioms. Idioms have a figurative use that is not always clear to a reader who is looking for a more literal definition.

Fingers crossed is an old term that most likely predates Christianity. The term stems from the physical process of crossing your fingers, which has held multiple meanings through the years. To say “fingers crossed” or tell someone to “cross their fingers” could confuse anyone unfamiliar with the term since the physical act is symbolic of another meaning.

Let’s take a closer look at where this term originated and how you can use it to show your support for someone or something through action, speech, and writing.

What Does Fingers Crossed Mean?

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Fingers crossed is an idiom with its roots in early Christianity, possibly before. An idiom is a figure of speech that is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition.

The modern use of fingers crossed (or variations such as crossed fingers or cross your fingers) is used to express the hope that something comes to pass or that someone is blessed with good luck. The phrase fingers crossed comes from the physical act of crossing one’s middle finger over one’s index finger, signifying one’s hope for good luck.

For example:

  • Sanna asked me to cross my fingers for her as she set off to complete the last phase of the job interview.
  • Fingers crossed we get the grant we need to take our students for an overseas study experience.

Today, you can use the physical act of crossing your fingers to indicate the associated message, use it in speech or text, or even use an emoji of the crossed fingers over digital communication platforms. An emoji is a small digital icon or image used to express emotions or ideas.

Synonyms of Fingers Crossed

Fingers crossed is synonymous with good luck, so any of the following can be used in its place.

  • Hopefully
  • Here’s hoping
  • All being well
  • God willing
  • Touch wood
  • With luck
  • If all goes well
  • If everything turns out
  • All right
  • One would hope
  • Weather permitting
  • Barring unforeseen circumstances
  • It is to be hoped
  • I hope

What Can You Say Instead of Fingers Crossed?

Using any of the above terms indicates the same as if you used the term fingers crossed in your speech or writing.

For example:

  • Keep your fingers crossed that the financial aid forms are accepted.


  • Here’s to hoping the financial aid forms are accepted.
  • She told her class to cross their fingers that they would receive a reply to their field trip request soon.


  • She told her class that, with luck, they would receive a reply to their field trip request soon.

Origins of Fingers Crossed

Finger crossed Ngram
Fingers crossed usage trend.

Although the physical act of crossing your fingers likely predates Christianity, it wasn’t an act often referred to in writing or speech until the early 1900s. The shape of the cross has long been used in cultural beliefs to indicate various things through the centuries. The shape of the cross was similar to a crossroad, where spirits were said to dwell. To create the shape was to ward off any spirits that meant harm and to help keep one safe.

A cross has also long been used to show solidarity or unity between one another.

This practice continued through early Christianity when those of the faith would cross their fingers to indicate their affiliation to the faith privately and wish blessings of Christ upon one another.

The practice became popular as a way to invoke luck or God’s support through the 18th century and has been regularly referred to by name since the early 1900s. Today we use fingers crossed, or a variation, to wish luck on one another.

Let’s Review

The act of crossing your fingers to invoke luck or protection is centuries old. Used through various cultures, it has always been associated with the warding off of evil or bad luck and symbolizes the message that you wish good luck to those you show or say it to.

Early Christians also used the act to show their affiliation with the faith discreetly.

Today we cross our fingers, use images, or use a variation in speech and text to wish luck or hope on another or a situation.