What do you call the following hand gestures? Is there any special terms people use to describe or differentiate the two? For example in a sentence:

I saw a nun with her hands ... standing in front of the alter. (base)

I saw a nun with her hands in a palm praying style standing in front of the alter. (colored image)

I saw a nun with her hands hugging each-other standing in front of the alter (colorless image)

both sound stupid, but that is the best guess I can make, and because I don't know the terms, I can't search for it anywhere. so to restate: how do I differentiate the two images below in words?

![palm praying hands]1 [other praying hands]2

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    Joined hands, perhaps. Or you can take a look at this article: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2007/… Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 13:05
  • You might have more luck on other SEs such as English or ELL; I forget which one frequently has people asking for words or idioms for things.
    – J.G.
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 13:38
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    I would say that in the first picture, the nun's "fingers are steepled" and in the second, her "hands are clasped". Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 13:43
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    @A.T. Catmus Joined hands gives a picture of more than one person "holding hands".the article gave me some words I can use to search with, so thanks.
    – mann workers
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 14:45
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    @Henry Taylor Steepled describes only the finger touching. it's not something a praying person would normally do. while "her hands clasped with one another" might work. Thank you.
    – mann workers
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Hands clasped or hands folded work for the one. "Palms pressed together in silent prayer" is probably workable for the second. Having ones fingers steepled makes me think of just the fingers pressed together, like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons when he says, "Excellent!"


hands join flat = salute gesture = anjali mudra [sanskrit] = gassho [japan]

hands join clasped / interlaced = begging gesture = ushas mudra [sanskrit]

feet join flat = reclining goddess pose = supta baddha konasana [sanskrit]

.... used in yoga and "trauma releasing exercises".

Anjali mudra is a "centering pose" which helps to alleviate mental stress and anxiety and is therefore used in achieving focus and coming into a meditative state.


meditative state? with palms pressed together, you can start "shaking arms" so that your hands go up and down. do that for few minutes, and feel the relaxation. this is the base for "trauma releasing" [david berceli], "ecstatic dancing" [bradford keeney] and "quakerism" [watch out for the slave catchers ....]

clasping / interlacing fingers = self harm = desperate begging

When a person does this gesture, they are exercising some sort of 'self-restraint'. They are symbolically 'clenching' themselves back and withholding a negative reaction, usually anxiety or frustration.

The higher the person clenches his hands whilst standing, the more negative he is feeling.

This gesture is usually done when a person feels that they are failing to convince the other person or are anxious about what they saying or hearing.

While talking to a person holding this gesture, you should try moving the conversation in a different direction or ask questions so that you can, if not understand, at least break the negative attitude of the person.


this should also be related to "back-facing palms" versus "center-facing palms".

with center-facing palms, the anjali mudra is easy to hold.

with back-facing palms, the anjali mudra is hard to hold, and people will interlace their fingers, to force their palms together.

with back-facing palms, a more natural hand gesture would be "palm to back" = "palma ad dorsum", or "grab wrist" with both palms in same direction, or the "roman salute" with palm down, or the "sun salutation" with palms down. also clapping hands should be easier "palm to back", instead of "palm to palm".

center-facing palms = psychotic tempo = fire + water = masculine = large thumb angle.

back-facing palms = neurotic tempo = air + earth = feminine = small thumb angle.

back vs center:



thumb angle:


nuff spoiled

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    I'm not sure this really address the question of what the two styles are called in English. Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 8:40
  • solving hands versus begging hands. better? "solving" derived from "salute". still you will need to explain or visualize, cos the whole "body language" topic is a mystery to most readers.
    – milahu
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 10:27

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