Ring finger

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Ring finger
A human left-hand with the ring finger extended
Artery Proper palmar digital arteries,
dorsal digital arteries
Vein Palmar digital veins, dorsal digital veins
Nerve Dorsal digital nerves of radial nerve,
Dorsal digital nerves of ulnar nerve,
Proper palmar digital nerves of median nerve
Latin Digitus IV manus, digitus quartus manus, digitus annularis manus, digitus medicinalis
TA98 A01.1.00.056
TA2 154
FMA 24948
Anatomical terminology

The ring finger, third finger, [1] fourth finger, [2] [3] leech finger, [4] or annulary is the fourth digit of the human hand, located between the middle finger and the little finger. [5]


Sometimes the term ring finger only refers to the fourth digit of a left-hand, so named for its traditional association with wedding rings in many societies, although not all use this digit as the ring finger. Traditionally, a wedding ring was worn only by the bride or wife, but in recent times more men also wear a wedding ring. It is also the custom in some societies to wear an engagement ring on the ring finger.

In anatomy, the ring finger is called digitus medicinalis, the fourth digit, digitus annularis, digitus quartus, or digitus IV. In Latin, the word anulus means "ring", digitus means "digit", and quartus means "fourth".


The origin of the selection of the fourth digit as the ring finger is not definitively known. According to László A. Magyar, the names of the ring finger in many languages reflect an ancient belief that it is a magical finger. It is named after magic or rings, or called nameless (for example, in Chinese :無名指 / 无名指; pinyin :wúmíng zhǐ; lit. 'unnamed finger'). [6]

In Japanese, it is called 薬指 (kusuri yubi, "medicine finger"), deriving its name from the fact that it was frequently used when taking traditional powdered medicine, as it was rarely used otherwise and hence was considered the cleanest of all. [7]

In other languages such as Sanskrit, Finnish, and Russian, the ring finger is called "Anamika", "nimetön", and "Безымянный" ("nameless"), respectively.

In Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, the ring finger is called bansur (meaning "victory") and kmitsa (meaning "taking a handful"), respectively.


Before medical science discovered how the circulatory system functioned, people believed that a vein ran directly from the fourth digit on the left hand to the heart. [8] Because of the hand–heart connection, they chose the descriptive name vena amoris, Latin for the vein of love, for this particular vein. [9]

Based upon this name, their contemporaries, purported experts in the field of matrimonial etiquette, wrote that it would only be fitting that the wedding ring be worn on this digit. By wearing the ring on the fourth digit of the left hand, a married couple symbolically declares their eternal love for each other.

In Britain, only women tended to wear a wedding ring until after the World Wars, when married male soldiers started to wear rings to remind them of their partner. [10]

Contemporary customs

Western customs

A man putting engagement ring on woman's finger Man putting engagement ring on woman's finger.jpg
A man putting engagement ring on woman's finger

In Western cultures, a wedding ring is traditionally worn on the fourth digit, commonly called the "ring finger". This developed from the Roman anulus pronubis, when a man would give a ring to the woman at their betrothal ceremony. Blessing the wedding ring and putting it on the bride's finger dates from the 11th century.

In medieval Europe, during the Christian wedding ceremony, the ring was placed in sequence on the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers of the left hand. The ring was then left on the ring finger.

In a few European countries, the ring is worn on the left hand prior to marriage, then transferred to the right during the ceremony. For example, an Eastern Orthodox Church bride wears the ring on the left hand prior to the ceremony, then moves it to the right hand after the wedding. In England, the 1549 Prayer Book declared "the ring shall be placed on the left hand". By the 17th and 18th centuries, the ring could be found on any digit after the ceremony — even on the thumb.

The wedding ring is generally worn on the ring finger of the left hand in the former British Empire, certain parts of Western Europe, certain parts of Catholic Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, and Central and Eastern Europe. These include: Australia, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US, [11] as well as France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Netherlands [if Catholic], Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands. In Spain, the ring is generally worn on the right hand.

The wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand in some Orthodox and a small number of Catholic European countries, some Protestant Western European, as well as some Central and South American Catholic countries. [12] In Eastern Europe, these include Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. In Central or Western Europe, these include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands (if not Catholic), Norway, and Spain (except in the Catalan-speaking regions). In Central or South America, these include Colombia, Cuba, Peru, and Venezuela.

In Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Romania, and Brazil, the ring is worn on the right hand until the actual wedding day, when it is moved to the left hand.

In western guitar music, "I-M-A" is a style of plucking guitar strings, where "I" means index finger, "M" means middle finger, and "A" means ring finger. This is a popular type of "finger style" guitar playing, where the "A" comes from Latin, where the word anulus means ring. [13]

Middle Eastern, Jewish, and Asian customs

In Sinhalese and Tamil culture, the groom wears the wedding ring on his right hand, but the bride wears it on her left hand ring finger. This can be seen in countries like Sri Lanka, which has a rich Sinhalese and Tamil cultural influence on the society. [14]

A wedding ring is not a traditional part of the religious Muslim wedding, and wedding rings are not included in most Islamic countries. If a wedding ring is worn in an Islamic country, however, it may be worn on either the left (such is the custom in Iran) and for example (in Jordan the right ring finger for engagement and the left ring finger for marriage). As opposed to the wedding ring, use of a ring to denote betrothal or engagement is quite prevalent in Muslim countries, especially those in West and Asia. These rings may be worn on the ring finger of either the right or left hand by both men and women.

In a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the wedding ring is placed on the bride's right-hand index finger, [15] but other traditions place it on the middle finger or the thumb, most commonly in recent times. [16] Today, the ring usually is moved to the left hand ring finger after the ceremony. Some Jewish grooms have adopted wearing a wedding ring, but in Orthodox Judaism, most men do not wear wedding rings.

Rings are not traditional in an Indian wedding, but in modern society, it is becoming a practice to wear rings for engagements if not for actual marriage. Although the left hand is considered inauspicious for religious activities, a ring (which is not called a wedding ring) is still worn on the left hand. Men generally wear the rings on the right hand and women on the left hands.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wedding</span> Ceremony where people are united in marriage

A wedding is a ceremony where 2 people are united in marriage. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes. Most wedding ceremonies involve an exchange of marriage vows by a couple, presentation of a gift, and a public proclamation of marriage by an authority figure or celebrant. Special wedding garments are often worn, and the ceremony is sometimes followed by a wedding reception. Music, poetry, prayers, or readings from religious texts or literature are also commonly incorporated into the ceremony, as well as superstitious customs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Engagement ring</span> Ring indicating that the person wearing it is engaged to be married

An engagement ring, also known as a betrothal ring, is a ring indicating that the person wearing it is engaged to be married, especially in Western cultures. A ring is presented as an engagement gift by a partner to their prospective spouse when they propose marriage or directly after a marriage proposal is accepted. It represents a formal agreement to future marriage. In most Western countries, engagement rings are worn mostly by women, and rings can feature diamonds or other gemstones. The neologism "mangagement ring" is sometimes used for an engagement ring worn by men. In some cultures, including Northern Europe, both partners wear matching rings, and engagement rings may also be used as wedding rings. In the Anglosphere, the ring is customarily worn on the left hand ring finger, but customs vary considerably elsewhere across the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Engagement</span> Promise to wed; period of preparation before marriage

An engagement or betrothal is the period of time between the declaration of acceptance of a marriage proposal and the marriage itself. During this period, a couple is said to be fiancés, betrothed,intended, affianced, engaged to be married, or simply engaged. Future brides and grooms may be called fiancée (feminine) or fiancé (masculine), the betrothed, a wife-to-be or husband-to-be, respectively. The duration of the courtship varies vastly, and is largely dependent on cultural norms or upon the agreement of the parties involved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Veil</span> A hanging cloth that covers specific parts of a person or a significant object

A veil is an article of clothing or hanging cloth that is intended to cover some part of the head or face, or an object of some significance. Veiling has a long history in European, Asian, and African societies. The practice has been prominent in different forms in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The practice of veiling is especially associated with women and sacred objects, though in some cultures, it is men, rather than women, who are expected to wear a veil. Besides its enduring religious significance, veiling continues to play a role in some modern secular contexts, such as wedding customs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bride</span> Woman who is about to be married

A bride is a woman who is about to be married or who is newlywed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wedding ring</span> Finger ring which indicates that its wearer is married

A wedding ring or wedding band is a finger ring that indicates that its wearer is married. It is usually forged from metal, traditionally gold or another precious metal. Rings were used in ancient Rome during marriage, though the modern practice of exchanging rings during weddings has a Christian origin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Claddagh ring</span> Traditional Irish ring

A Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring in which a heart represents love, the crown stands for loyalty, and two clasped hands symbolize friendship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vestment</span> Clothing prescribed for clergy performing specific roles

Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially by Eastern Churches, Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. Many other groups also make use of liturgical garments; this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since, in particular during the ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Middle finger</span> Third finger of the human hand

The middle finger, long finger, second finger, third finger, toll finger or tall man is the third digit of the human hand, located between the index finger and the ring finger. It is typically the longest digit. In anatomy, it is also called the third finger, digitus medius, digitus tertius or digitus III.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Little finger</span> Smallest finger of the human hand

The little finger, or pinkie, also known as the baby finger, fifth digit, or pinky finger, is the most ulnar and smallest digit of the human hand, and next to the ring finger.

Visual markers of marital status, as well as social status, may include clothing, hairstyle, accessories, jewelry, tattoos, and other bodily adornments. Visual markers of marital status are particularly important because they indicate that a person should not be approached for flirtation, courtship, or sex. In some cultures, married people enjoy special privileges or are addressed differently by members of the community.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gauntlet (glove)</span> Hand and wrist armour

A gauntlet is a variety of glove, particularly one having been constructed of hardened leather or metal plates which protected the hand and wrist of a combatant in Europe between the early fourteenth century and the early modern period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ring of the Fisherman</span> Signet ring, part of the papal regalia

The Ring of the Fisherman, also known as the Piscatory Ring, is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, who is head of the Catholic Church and successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade. It used to feature a bas-relief of Peter fishing from a boat, a symbolism derived from the tradition that the apostles were "fishers of men". The Fisherman's Ring is a signet used until 1842 to seal official documents signed by the Pope. Since at least the Middle Ages it has been a tradition for Catholics meeting the Pope to show their devotion by kissing the ring.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ring (jewellery)</span> Round band worn as ornamental jewellery

A ring is a round band, usually made of metal, worn as ornamental jewelry. The term "ring" by itself always denotes jewellery worn on the finger; when worn as an ornament elsewhere, the body part is specified within the term, e.g., earrings, neck rings, arm rings, and toe rings. Rings always fit snugly around or in the part of the body they ornament, so bands worn loosely, like a bracelet, are not rings. Rings may be made of almost any hard material: wood, bone, stone, metal, glass, gemstone or plastic. They may be set with gemstones or with other types of stone or glass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecclesiastical ring</span> Finger ring worn by clergy

An ecclesiastical ring is a finger ring worn by clergy, such as a bishop's ring.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Traditional Vietnamese wedding</span>

The traditional Vietnamese wedding is one of the most important ceremonies in Vietnamese culture, which is influenced by Confucian and Buddhist ideologies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Punjabi wedding traditions</span> Overview of the wedding traditions in Punjab

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arab wedding</span>

Arabic weddings are ceremonies of matrimony which contain Arab influences or Arabic culture.

Bahaghara is a wedding ceremony performed by Odia Hindu people in the Indian state of Odisha. There are subtle differences in the rites observed by different castes. In Odia marriage rituals, the mother of the bridegroom does not take part in the ceremony. The Utkala Brahmins have their weddings only in the daytime, preferably at midday or in the morning, while the other caste weddings are done during the evening or night. There is the custom of sending betel nuts to family friends for inviting them to the marriage. The first invitation is sent to the family deity as a respect to the lord. Marriages in Odisha are mostly fixed and arranged by the parents. Marriages for serving or capturing is not common. In the Odia community widow remarriage is allowed in some lower caste, in this case the younger brother is allowed to marry the deceased brother's wife. The marriage happens in three major rituals, Nirbandha, Bahaghara (wedding) and Chauthi (Chaturthi) (consummation). A marriage is not considered complete or valid until consummation. These rituals are performed either at the Duara or Tola kanias house.


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  5. "Synonyms of annulary | Thesaurus.com". www.thesaurus.com. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
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  10. "Wedding rings: Have men always worn them?". BBC. 8 April 2011. World War II is considered to have heralded a seismic shift, as many Western men fighting overseas chose to wear wedding rings as a comforting reminder of their wives and families back home.
  11. "What hand does a wedding ring go on for a man". Alpine Rings.
  12. "Why in the Orthodox tradition do we wear the wedding ring on the left hand?". antiochian.org.
  13. "Right Hand Planting Technique". douglasniedt.com.
  14. "A Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu Wedding" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2012.
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  16. Sperber, David (1995). Minhagei Yisrael, Jerusalem (Hebrew). Vol. 4. pp. 92–93.