If you want to convey "What now?" or "I don't know what to do", you might lift your hands up and outwards. Is there a word or phrase for this action and intent? Closest I can think of is 'She shrugged her hands' but OED only lists shrug (as a gesture) as applying to the shoulders.

I've tried a reverse dictionary search and searched on this SE but cannot find an answer to this exact question.

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    I thought about this for a minute, but ... ¯_(ツ)_/¯ . – Dan Bron Mar 18 '17 at 14:39
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    ¯|_(ツ)_/¯ fantastic and fun tactic! – mahmud k pukayoor Mar 18 '17 at 15:25
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    'throwing up one's hands in frustration? – Spagirl Mar 18 '17 at 17:02
  • That would fit, @Spagirl, thanks (as I do the same at not thinking of that). I'll wait a little to see if anyone can come up with a shorter phrase. – Tony Linde Mar 18 '17 at 18:39

You can say that she threw up her hands.

throw up one's hands Raise both hands in the air as an indication of one's exasperation. ‘Dickens threw up his hands in impatience’ - ODO


I think you could describe it as she splayed her hands, as in

“What's the matter, Nick?”1 She blew out her breath, splayed her hands in front of her. She took a step closer to him and said, “I know what's going. I know." (Catherine Coulter, The Eleventh Hour, 2002)

She splayed her hands in exasperation. “What are you talking about?" (Michael A. Martin, Fallen Gods, 2012)

Quinn shrugged his shoulder and splayed his hands, “I guess that came out wrong." (Robin Wood, Murder She Spoke, 2014)

Of course splaying is just spreading, so one can splay one's hands on something, etc., which changes the meaning of the phrase, but without such specificity I picture a gesture something like this.

1 Incidentally, I'm sure it's a spurious correlation, but the name Nick and variations thereof co-occurred with this phrase in my search results to a startling degree.

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