AskDefine | Define handshake

Dictionary Definition

handshake n : grasping and shaking a person's hand (as to acknowledge an introduction or to agree on a contract) [syn: shake, handshaking, handclasp]

User Contributed Dictionary



From hand + shake.



  1. The grasping of hands by two people when greeting or leave-taking
  2. An exchange of signals between two devices when communications begin in order to ensure synchronization

Related terms


Extensive Definition

A handshake is a short ritual in which two people grasp each other's right or left hands, often accompanied by a brief up and down movement of the grasped hands. While its origins remain obscure archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that handshaking was regularly practiced as far back as the 2nd century BC. Some researchers have suggested the handshake may have been introduced in the Western World by Sir Walter Raleigh in service with the British Court during the late 16th century. The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.
The handshake is initiated when the two hands touch, immediately. It is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, or completing an agreement. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.
In Anglophone countries, shaking hands is considered the standard greeting in business situations. In casual non-business situations, men are more likely to shake hands than women. It is considered to be in poor taste to show dominance with too strong a handshake due to people perceiving it as a sign of weakness.
Atlantic City, New Jersey Mayor Joseph Lazarow was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for a July 1977 publicity stunt, in which the mayor shook more than 11,000 hands in a single day, breaking the record previously held by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had set the record with 8,513 handshakes at a White House reception on January 1, 1907.

Modern Customs

There are various customs surrounding handshakes, both generically and specific to certain cultures:
  • Generally it is considered inappropriate, if not outright insulting to the initiator side, to reject a handshake without good reason (such as an injured right hand). Islamic exception: When extending a hand to shake that of a person of the opposite sex, you should not be alarmed if the handshake is not taken. This is not a rude gesture. Rather, the Muslim is abiding by the Islamic requirement that discourages physical contact between opposite sexes.
  • In some cultures people shake both hands, but in most cultures people shake the right hand.
  • Practitioners of fencing shake with the non-sword hand after a bout. This is due to the sword hand being employed holding the weapon.
  • In American culture, there is a "Soul Brother Handshake," also called a "Power" or "Unity" shake, dating to the 1960s, begun among African-American men, and still widely practiced between men of various races and particularly among teenage boys as a gesture of close friendship. This is usually a three move procedure, beginning with a traditional, palm-to-palm clasp, followed in quick succession by a clasping at the hilt of the thumbs, and finally, by a hooked clasp of only the fingers, in the manner of railroad couplers. Variations include the above, followed by an exchange of facing palm slaps, as in "Gimme Five," or fist bumping, tops-to-bottoms, "the face slap", or knuckles-to-knuckles.
  • Among Arabic-speaking people, handshakes accompanied with the salutation As-Salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you) are an old tradition.
  • In some religions such as Orthodox Judaism (according to some opinions) and Islam, the prohibition against physical contact between members of the opposite sex precludes shaking hands.
  • Generally it is considered an insult to gesture as to accept a handshake but then move the hand away to initiate another activity.

See also


handshake in Arabic: مصافحة
handshake in Catalan: Encaixada
handshake in German: Händeschütteln
handshake in Spanish: Apretón de manos
handshake in Esperanto: Manpremo
handshake in Persian: دست دادن
handshake in French: Poignée de main
handshake in Korean: 악수
handshake in Hebrew: לחיצת יד
handshake in Dutch: Hand geven
handshake in Japanese: 握手
handshake in Norwegian: Håndtrykk
handshake in Portuguese: Aperto de mão
handshake in Russian: Рукопожатие
handshake in Simple English: Handshake
handshake in Finnish: Kättely
handshake in Swedish: Handskakning
handshake in Chinese: 握手

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accost, act up to, address, agree to anything, bob, bow, brown-nose, court, curry favor, curtsy, dance attendance on, embrace, fall all over, fall over, fawn upon, greeting, hail, hand-clasp, hello, how-do-you-do, hug, kiss, make court to, make up to, nod, pay court to, play up to, polish the apple, run after, salutation, salute, shine up to, smile, smile of recognition, suck up to, wave
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