The thumbs up gesture is largely known as a sign of approval. It is widely recognized as a way of saying “good job” or “congrats on your face” without speaking. However, in other cultures, a thumbs up signal may mean something else. In parts of West Africa, Iran, and Greece, the sign is considered a taboo as it is perceived to express an insulting remark. In some sports, the gesture conveys rules of the game. In basketball, two thumbs up in the air calls for a jump ball, while in baseball, a thumbs up jerked over the shoulder indicates “out.” And for hitchhikers, stretching one’s arm out with a thumbs up gesture is the solution to getting a ride.
No one really knows how or when the sign originally came about, but one of its early uses was in the Late Middle Ages, where archers held out a thumbs-up to express that they are ready to fight. Fast forward to the present—with 10.5 billion minutes wasted on Facebook per day, a thumbs up is now synonymous to ‘like,’ which is commonly used whenever a meme speaks to the soul.
Other icons fairly similar to the thumbs up symbol are: