The middle finger and ring finger are obvious names for those fingers. The thumb is, well, the thumb, too.

But why is the index finger called the index finger and why is the pinky finger called the pinky finger?

Also, is there another formal name for the pinky finger? I only ask, because the spelling and grammar check on my browser keeps underlining the word "pinky" in red.

closed as off-topic by jimm101, Hot Licks, Drew, curiousdannii, FumbleFingers Oct 19 '16 at 11:44

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    Well, index is easy: etymology in ODO -- the list index is actuallly derived from the finger, rather than the other way round. – Andrew Leach Oct 18 '16 at 23:09
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    This is an interesting question, but you should show more research to establish that the question isn't answered by commonly available resources such as dictionaries. For example, the Oxford English Dictionaries entry on "pinkie" says it is from Dutch "pinkje." – sumelic Oct 18 '16 at 23:22
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    If that is all you wanted to know, there isn't really a need for asking a question on this site; you can just read the dictionary's explanation. If you want to know more, you should explain what kind of answer you're looking for in more detail. – sumelic Oct 18 '16 at 23:24
  • Please include the research you've done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – Hot Licks Oct 19 '16 at 0:23

Pinkie (n.) meaning ‘little finger’ is a Scottish term of Dutch origin:

  • "the little finger," 1808, in Scottish, from Dutch pinkje, diminutive of pink "little finger," of uncertain origin.

From: Etymonline


  • The Scots term may have originated in the nursery, but it soon graduated. In his novel The Life of Mansie Wauch, Tailor in Dalkeith (1828), the Scottish poet and physician David Macbeth Moir wrote: “His pinkie was hacked off by a dragoon.”

  • The OED says “pinkie” (also spelled “pinky” and occasionally used for the little toe) is derived from an earlier noun, “pink,” a now obsolete 16th-century Scottish word for “a very small person or creature; a brat; an elf.”

  • In the 17th century, this same word was used in Scotland to mean a very small thing, like a speck or tiny hole. Until the 18th century, the word was spelled “pinck” or “pinke.”

  • All of these Scottish words are of “uncertain” origin, the OED says. But there could be a Dutch connection. As the OED notes, similar words n Dutch and West Frisian (pinck, pink, pinke) had been used earlier to mean the little finger.

From: Grammarphobia

Index finger:

  • late 14c., "the forefinger," from Latin index (genitive indicis) "one who points out, discloser, discoverer, informer; forefinger (because used in pointing); pointer, sign; title, inscription, list,".

  • Obsolete in English in its original sense (index finger is recorded from 1768).

From: Etymonline

  • I don't think brackets does it for citing sources in plain text; it's far too easily missed. – Andrew Leach Oct 19 '16 at 0:11
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    Thanks. Apart from being scrupulously fair to the original researchers and authors, it's far easier to see where material comes from if the reference is not scrunched into the quotation, and thus to form an opinion on the merit of the answer. – Andrew Leach Oct 19 '16 at 0:17

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