Wasn't "pointer finger" good enough?
February 23, 2007 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Why is it called the index finger?

The finger right next to your thumb. The second one. The one you use to pick your nose, or to point and laugh at people who pick their noses. Google and the archives don't seem to know, unless I'm just being dense (which is a definite possibility). I could come up with semi-plausible theories until the cows come home, but is there a definitive answer?
posted by ramenopres to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME < l: informer, pointer, equiv. to in- in-2 + -dec- (comb. form of dic-, show, declare, indicate; akin to teach) + -s nom. sing. ending] -- source: a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/index">Dictionary.com.
posted by acoutu at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2007

Oh....so sorry about that...toddler bumped my hand and i didn't click preview...
posted by acoutu at 3:34 PM on February 23, 2007

. . . which is another way of saying that "pointer finger" in Latin was good enough.
posted by grobstein at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2007

In Chinese it's called the 食指 (shízhĭ), or 'eating finger'。
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Brings new meaning to the phrase finger food.

posted by oxford blue at 7:42 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think the "index" anything tends to refer to the first or primary of something. In genetics, for instance, the 'index case' is the first appearance in a given genealogical group (so if you're the first in your family to manifest a particular recessive disorder, you're the 'index case').
posted by spaceman_spiff at 11:23 PM on February 23, 2007

FWIW, Dutch "wijsvinger" - "point(ing) finger" (Germanic roots as opposed to Latin). Fairly straightforward, and the other fingers are pretty transparent with the English names as well.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2007

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