Scout sign and salute

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Scout sign and salute
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Ukrainian Girl Scout from Plast making the Scout Sign
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The three-finger salute is used by members of Scout and Guide organizations around the world when greeting other Scouts and in respect of a national flag at ceremonies. In most situations, the salute is made with the right hand, palm face out, the thumb holding down the little finger, and with the fingertips on the brow of the head. There are some variations of the salute between national Scouting organizations and also within some programme sections.


A "half-salute", known as the Scout Sign, is also used in certain situations. The hand is still held palm facing out, and the thumb holding the little finger, but the hand is held at the shoulder instead. Other organizations with historical ties to Scouting such as Scouts Royale Brotherhood and Alpha Phi Omega use it as well.

Meaning of the three fingers

Scouts using the three-finger salute as the Scout Sign. 1996-Rover Moot-Fahnengruss.jpg
Scouts using the three-finger salute as the Scout Sign.
A Christmas cookie as three-finger salute. Lebkuchen in Form des Pfadfindergrusses 3755.jpg
A Christmas cookie as three-finger salute.

In his book, Scouting for Boys, Robert Baden-Powell chose the three-finger salute for Scouts to represent the three aspects of the Scout Promise:

  1. Honor God and Country
  2. Help Others
  3. Obey the Scout Law [1]

Cub Scouts' two-finger salute

Cub Scout sections can use a two-finger salute, depending on the national Scouting organization they belong to. This is done to represent the two rules of the original Cub Scout / Wolf Cub law. The salute is performed with the right hand.

In The Wolf Cub's Handbook , Baden-Powell wrote: "Why two fingers? Well, you know what a Wolf's head looks like with two ears cocked up. It is used as the badge of the Wolf Cub. Your two fingers in the salute are the two ears of the Wolf." [2]

Salute or sign?

Originally, Baden-Powell intended for Scouts to salute each other in greeting when they first saw each other for the first time using the "secret sign", or half-salute. This was regardless of whether the Scouts knew each other or not. Officers, such as Patrol Leaders, Scoutmasters, or members of the armed forces, were to be saluted with a full-salute. [3] [4]

Full-salutes were also required at the hoisting of the Union Flag, the playing of the national anthem, or at funerals. [1]


In Scouts Canada the Salute is rendered vertically, palm out similar to British Army/Commonwealth salutes, except if the member is a Sea Scout where it is palm in/angled down. (Traditionally, to hide your 'dirty hands' from the ship's captain). Beaver Scouts in Canada use a variant of the two-fingered sign with the fingers bent forwards forming "teeth". When they move up to Cub Scouts part of the ceremony sometimes includes a Scouter straightening the fingers to change from the Beaver to Cub sign.[ citation needed ]

Switzerland and Belgium

The half-salute is used by Swiss Scouts when shaking (left) hands with other Scouts or leaders on greeting or parting.

Additional meaning of the thumb holding down the little finger as explained in Switzerland: the big and strong protects the weak and little.

United Kingdom

The Scout Association uses the three-fingered salute for all sections, including Cub Scouts. The two-fingered Cub salute was abandoned by the Scout Association following a recommendation by the Advance Party Report in 1966, that "there should be only one salute for the whole Movement". [5] The Scout Sign is used while making or reaffirming the Beaver Scout, Cub Scout or Scout Promise and at no other time. [6] The Baden-Powell Scouts' Association uses both the three and two fingered salutes. Girlguiding UK only uses the Guide Sign (half salute), though historically the full salute was used. [7]

United States of America

Texas Cub Scouts Saluting Texas Cub Scouts Saluting.jpg
Texas Cub Scouts Saluting

Baden-Powell Service Association

As a member of WFIS and part of the international Traditional Scouting movement. the scout sign and salute differs by section in the BPSA-US. The Timberwolf (cub) section uses the two-finger (spread) salute, and the two finger scout salute as defined in the 1938 PO&R, [8] while the Pathfinder (scout) and Rovers use the traditional three-finger sign and salute.

Boy Scouts of America

Cub Scouts use the two finger Scout sign and salute— the sign is presented with the fingers apart to represent the ears of Akela the wolf. Scouts BSA, Venturers and Sea Scouts use the three finger sign and salute. The Scout Sign is performed with the upper arm parallel to the ground and the forearm vertical, forming a right angle at the elbow. [9] The Scout Sign is used when reciting any of the ideals of the BSA such as the Scout Oath and Scout Law. It is also used to gain the attention of the group.

The salute is rendered in the American style with the palm in and is only used to salute the flag of the United States. Early BSA protocol required Scouts to salute each other, but this was discontinued in 1972.[ citation needed ]

Girl Scouts of the USA

As a member of WAGGGS, the Girl Scouts of the USA use the three-fingered sign at shoulder height. The three fingers represent the person's own spiritual beliefs, other people and the Girl Scout Law. This differs from the 1913 version where the first finger represented God and Country. [10]


All World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts members share the three fingered sign, with the palm facing out held at shoulder height, elbow by the side and the thumb holding the little finger. This is used in numerous situations of respect including when making or reciting the Promise, receiving awards, honouring a flag, honouring the dead and meeting other Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. In the latter case, it may be used in conjunction with the left handshake.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Scouting World-wide movement for the education of youth

The Scout movement, also known as Scouting or the Scouts, is a voluntary non-political educational movement for young people open to all without distinction of gender, origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by the founder, Lord Baden-Powell. The purpose of the Scout Movement is to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities. During the first half of the twentieth century, the movement grew to encompass three major age groups for boys and, in 1910, a new organization, Girl Guides, was created for girls. It is one of several worldwide youth organizations.

Two-finger salute

The two-finger salute is a salute given using only the middle and index fingers, while bending the other fingers at the second knuckle, and with the palm facing the signer. This salute is used by the Polish Armed Forces, other uniformed services, and, in some countries, the Cub Scouts.

Cub Scout Scouting program for young people

Cub Scouts, Cubs or Wolf Cubs are programs associated with Scouting for young children usually between 5 and 12, depending on the national organization to which they belong. A participant in the program is called a Cub. A group of Cubs is called a 'Pack'.

The Scout Association scouting organisation in the United Kingdom

The Scout Association is the largest Scouting organisation in the United Kingdom and is the World Organization of the Scout Movement's recognised member for the United Kingdom (UK). Following the origin of Scouting in 1907, the association was formed in 1910 and incorporated in 1912 by a Royal Charter under its previous name of The Boy Scouts Association.

Cub Scouting (Boy Scouts of America) Coed program of the Boy Scouts of America for kids in grades K-5

Cub Scouting is part of the Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), available to boys and girls from kindergarten through fifth grade, or 5 to 10 years of age and their families. Its membership is the largest of the five main BSA divisions. Cub Scouting is part of the worldwide Scouting movement and aims to promote character development, citizenship training, personal fitness, and leadership.

Scout Promise

Since the publication of Scouting for Boys in 1908, all Scouts and Girl Guides around the world have taken a Scout promise or oath to live up to ideals of the movement, and subscribed to a Scout Law. The wording of the Scout Promise and Scout Law have varied slightly over time and from country to country. Some national organization promises are given below. Although most Scouting and Guiding organizations use the word "promise", a few such as the Boy Scouts of America tend to use "oath" instead. Typically, Scouts and Guides will make the three-fingered Scout Sign when reciting the promise.

World Scout Emblem logo of Scouting

The World Scout Emblem is the emblem of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and is worn by Scouts and Scouters around the world to indicate their membership. Each national Scout organization determines the manner in which the emblem is worn.

Kenya Scouts Association

The Kenya Scouts Association is the national Scouting association of Kenya. Scouting was founded in British East Africa in 1910 and became a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1964. It has 323,929 members.

Beavers is one name for programs associated with Scouting for young children usually aged 5 to 7. A participant in the program is called a Beaver. A group of Beavers is often called a "Colony". The programme is based on co-operating and sharing. Some Scouting organizations have programs for similar ages but use different names such as Keas or Joeys.

Scouting and Guiding on Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Scouting and Guiding in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is administered by the United Kingdom Scout Association and Girlguiding UK, due to Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha's affiliations as a British Overseas Territory.

Cub Scouts (The Scout Association) age-based section of The Scout Association in the UK

Cub Scouts or Cubs are an age-based section of The Scout Association for young boys and girls ages 8 to 10½. This section follows on from the Beaver Scouts and Cubs will move on to Scouts at the age of 10½. The section originally opened as Wolf Cubs in 1916.

Girlguiding Bermuda

Girlguiding Bermuda is a Guiding organisation in Bermuda. It is one of the nine branch associations of Girlguiding UK. It is represented by Girlguiding UK at World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) level and Girlguiding UK's Chief Guide is also Chief Guide for Girlguiding Bermuda. Girlguiding Bermuda is part of the Caribbean Link for Guiding.

The Scout Movement in Spain consists of about 30 independent associations, most of them active on the regional level. Due to the regionalisation of Spain, even the larger nationwide associations are divided into regional sub-associations with individual emblems, uniforms and Scout programs.

Religion in Scouting

Religion in Scouting and Guiding is an aspect of the Scout method that has been practiced differently and given different interpretations over the years.

Scout handshake

The left-handed Scout handshake is a formal way of greeting other Scouts of both genders and is used by members of Scout and Guide organizations around the world. The handshake is made with the hand nearest to the heart and is offered as a token of friendship. In most situations, the handshake is made firmly, without interlocking fingers, and many organizations only use this handshake when both people are in uniform. There are some variations of the handshake between national Scouting organizations and also within some program sections.

Beaver Scouts (Baden-Powell Scouts Association)

Beaver Scouts, usually referred to as Beavers, is the youngest section of Scouting operated by the Baden-Powell Scouts' Association. The core age range for Beaver Scouts is five to eight years, though exceptions can be granted. Individual sections of Beaver Scouts, known as a Colony, are run by the local Scout Group. After reaching the age of eight, a Beaver Scout will then move on to Wolf Cubs.

Scouting and Guiding in Gibraltar

Scouting and Guiding in Gibraltar exist as branches of the parent organisations in the United Kingdom.

Girl Guides Movement for girls and young women

Girl Guides or Girl Scouts is a movement found worldwide, which was originally and still largely designed for girls and women only. This organization was introduced in 1909, because girls demanded to take part in the then grassroots Boy Scout Movement.

Grand Howl scout and guide ceremony

The Grand Howl is a ceremony used by Cub Scouts and Brownies. It was devised by Robert Baden-Powell, the author of the scouting guide Scouting for Boys, and is based on the Mowgli stories in Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. In the ceremony, Cubs act out the wolves greeting Akela, the "Old Wolf", at the Council Rock and are reminded of the Cub Scout Promise. Baden-Powell also created a Grand Howl for Brownie Guides, which was in imitation of an owl instead of a wolf. It has been used as an opening and closing ceremony as well as a method of conveying thanks or appreciation by all sections of Scouting.


  1. 1 2 Baden-Powell, Robert (2005) [First published 1908]. Scouting for Boys . Oxford. p. 37.
  2. The Wolf Cub's Handbook (p.15)
  3. Prahran Chronicle (Vic. : 1914 - 1918)(Saturday 17 July 1915, page 5
  4. P.O.R. iX. General Rules, Rule 352
  5. The Advance Party Report '66 (Recommendation 10, p.14)
  6. The Scout Association - Policy, Organisation and Rules - January 2011: Rules 12.5 and 12.6
  7. GirlguidingUK: World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) - Symbols of Unity
  8. "IX. General Rules". Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  9. Wendell, Bryan (17 October 2012). "BSA to use Scout Oath and Scout Law for all programs". Bryan on Scouting. Scouting.
  10. Cadette Girl Scout Handbook . Girl Scouts of the USA. 1995. ISBN   0-88441-283-0.