The amazing story of Deepa Kulkarni of California sparked our curiosity about hands and fingers. She lost the tip of her pinkie in a grotesque accident. Through tenacity and new medical technology, she actually regenerated the severed digit in seven weeks.
Inspired, we looked at our hand and the English words for it. The first dilemma; whether the thumb is one of the five digits on our hand. There is no definitive answer. But one of the terms for finger in Indo-European is penkwe, which also means “fiveness.”
Pinkie may be a trace of this ancient word for finger. We know for certain that the Scots and the Dutch used “pinkie” going back to 1500 or so, and that the Dutch word relates to “smallness.”
The Latin name for pinkie also emphasizes the size issue ― the digitus minimus, or “smallest finger.” Latin also sticks to vanilla names for the other three fingers: basically “fingers one, two and three.” Thumb goes all the way back to the ancient root tum-, “to swell,” or “stout.”
Many of the bones in your fingers are known as phalanges, based on the Indo-European root for “beam.” And why is the finger next to the pinkie the ring finger? Apparently Romans believed that a vein in the left ring finger flows directly to the heart, an apt symbol for matrimonial affection.
In closing, let us point you towards an amazing term: “The condition of having six fingers or toes on a hand or foot,” hexadactyly.
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