Could anyone give me an explanation of the meaning of "get one's finger in the air" and the usage of it?

  • could you give some context for the usage? There are a variety of possible explanations, dependant on context. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:37

3 Answers 3


You "get your finger in the air" means to "go with the crowd", "go with the flow". You want to see, where the wind is coming from - usually by wetting the finger before. A person "putting his finger in the air" is unlikely to come up with original, individual ideas or solutions. And decisions are made unscientifically, without backing evidence.


The "finger in the air" approach to enterprise-wide IT where you have no clear view of cost or quality is to go with Microsoft.

Stick a finger in the air of local politics these days, and you'll probably detect a strong wind pushing against new health care reform efforts like Measure ...

See here.

  • @Ralph, thanks for your detailed explanation! Now I have gripped it. :-)
    – didxga
    Commented Oct 30, 2010 at 5:41

In my experience, the phrase "put a finger in the air," used in a business and IT context, is another way of saying "make a high-level estimate." It's often an "order of magnitude" estimate (e.g., five or six figures; days/weeks/months), based on the speaker's experience or gut. It is another term for "SWAG" (Sophisticated Wild-Ass Guess). It does come from the practice of estimating the wind's direction by wetting one's finger and holding it up in the air.


Raising a finger in the air is sometimes seen as an outward manifestatation of an inward acknowledgment of GOD on a subliminal level. Not to be confused with submission to GOD or conformity to GOD, but rather a simple acknowledgement of the existence of. Sportsmen sometimes do this, namely soccer when scoring a goal a striker will raise a finger in the air, recognising Christ Jesus as GOD and the provider of the particular Goal and thanking him for the blessing of providence.

  • Can you provide any evidence that the phrase in question has the meaning you suggest? The other answers seem to have a different take on it.
    – Cameron
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 9:00
  • 1
    @Cameron, Luke seems to be ignoring your question (or perhaps still looking for a reply). Anyhow, my take on a striker raising a finger in the air after a goal is that they are proclaiming “I'm number one!” – so basically the opposite of Luke's explanation. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 18:45

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