A left human 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|
The ring finger is the fourth from thumb finger of a human hand. It is located between the third and fifth digits, between the little finger and the middle finger. It is so named for its traditional association with wedding rings in many cultures, though not all cultures use this finger as the ring finger. In some cultures the wedding ring is worn on the "ring finger" of the left hand and in others it is on the right hand. Traditionally, a wedding ring was worn only by the bride/wife, but in recent times more men also wear a wedding ring. It is also the custom in some cultures to wear an engagement ring on the ring finger.
In anatomy, the ring finger is called digitus medicinalis, the fourth finger, digitus annularis, digitus quartus, or digitus IV. It may also be referred to as the third finger, excluding the thumb. In Latin, the word anulus means "ring", digitus means "finger", and quartus means "fourth".
The origin of the selection of the fourth finger 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, unnamed finger).
In Sanskrit and other languages like Finnish or Russian, the ring finger is called respectively - "Anamika", "nimetön" and "Безымянный" ("nameless"). In Arabic and Hebrew, the ring finger is called respectively - bansur (meaning "victory") - and kmitsa (meaning "taking a handful").
Before medical science discovered how the circulatory system functioned, people believed that a vein ran directly from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart. Because of the hand–heart connection, they chose the descriptive name vena amoris, Latin for the vein of love, for this particular vein.
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 finger. By wearing the ring on the fourth finger 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 the 1st and 2nd World Wars, when married male soldiers started to wear rings to remind them of their partner.
In Western cultures, a wedding ring is traditionally worn on the fourth finger, 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, a Greek Orthodox 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 finger 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; France, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania. Also in Catalonia and Valencia (in Spain it's generally worn on the right).
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. In Eastern Europe, these include: Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. In Central or Western Europe, these include: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Netherlands [if not Catholic], Norway and Spain (except in Catalonia and Valencia). In Central or South America, these include: Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela.
The ring is worn on the right hand until the actual wedding day, when it is moved to the left hand in Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria as well as in Romania and Brazil.
In Sinhalese and Tamil culture, the groom wears the wedding ring on his right hand and bride wears it on her left hand ring finger. This can be seen in countries like Sri Lanka where there is a rich Sinhalese and Tamil cultural influence in the society.
A wedding ring is not a traditional part of the religious Muslim wedding and wedding rings are not included in most Islamic countries. However, if a wedding ring is worn in an Islamic country, it may be worn on either the left (such is the custom in Iran) or the right ring finger (as in Jordan). 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 South Asia. Muslim engagement rings are typically worn on the right finger by men, and the left finger by women.
In a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the wedding ring is placed on the bride's righthand index finger, but other traditions place it on the middle finger or the thumb, most commonly in recent times. Today, the ring usually is moved to the left hand ring finger after the ceremony. Some Jewish grooms have adopted wearing a wedding ring. However, in Orthodox Judaism, most men do not wear wedding rings.
Rings are not traditional in an Indian wedding. However, in modern society it is becoming a practice to wear rings for engagements and not for actual marriage. Though the left hand is considered inauspicious for religious activities, a ring (not to be called wedding ring) is still worn on the left hand. Men generally wear the rings on the right hand and the women on the left hands.
- Digit ratio, comparative lengths of the index finger and ring finger and androgen levels in utero
- "Third finger". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
- Magyar, László A. "Digitus Medicinalis — the Etymology of the Name" Actes du Congr. Intern. d'Hist. de Med. XXXII., Antwerpen. 175-179., 1990, retrieved September 2, 2009
- George Frederick Kunz (1917). Rings for the finger: from the earliest known times, to the present, with full descriptions of the origin, early making, materials, the archaeology, history, for affection, for love, for engagement, for wedding, commemorative, mourning, etc. J. B. Lippincott company. pp. 193–194.
- Mukherji, Subha (2006), Law and Representation in Early Modern Drama, Cambridge University Press, pp. 35–36, ISBN 0521850355
- Why in the Orthodox tradition do we wear the wedding ring on the left hand?, antiochian.org
- "A Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu Wedding" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-03.
- "Guide to the Jewish Wedding". aish.com.
- David Sperber, in: Daniel Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael Vol. 4, Jerusalem 1995, pp. 92-93 (Hebrew)
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