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I've been hearing term "hand-waving" thrown around a lot, especially when my peers describe their CS(computer science) classes. Does anyone know what that term means in this context?

(also a little background on where the term came from would help too!)

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"Waive" means relinquish or forego, so the "hand-waiving" in your title means, to do without hands. –  jwpat7 Oct 12 '11 at 1:53

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Wiktionary says it better than I can, describing "hand waving" in this context as:

Discussion or argumentation involving approximation, vagueness, educated guessing, or the attempt to explain or excuse vagaries.

The phrase is purely idiomatic. Picture the hand gestures of someone speaking on a topic that perhaps is vague or confusing, or of which the speaker is unfamiliar or poorly prepared. Certainly brings back memories of my computer science classes!

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Hand waving is what happens in a lecture after a professor writes a theorem on a blackboard and tries to "demonstrate its validity" via gestures over diagrams and equations, often accompanied with the statement "It can be easily shown that..." –  Firstrock Oct 12 '11 at 2:33

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