Handshake Substitute

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"Verily, we are too awesome to exchange handgrips, my brother!"


When two people meet formally for the first time, it is customary for them to shake hands. The handshake is initiated when the two hands touch, immediately. It is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.

This trope is about when, instead of the usual handshake as a greeting gesture, the characters use a variation, each of which has its own connotations. Most of these variations are less formal than a handshake, but some retain the formality. While mostly a Western Media trope, it has found its way into eastern media on occasion.

Handshake substitutes that have their own tropes:


Examples of Handshake Substitute include:

Forearm Clasp[edit | hide | hide all]

"You are my equal, sir, and I honor/greet/salute you."

This is the variation closest to an actual handshake, and is quite possibly its precursor. Instead of exchanging handgrips, the two clasp each others' forearms, just below the elbow. It is considered archaic and often 'knightly', the kind of greeting warriors of old gave each other, supposedly to prove they didn't have a knife up their sleeve.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

Theatre[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Seen in Quest for Camelot, when the Knights of the Round Table greet each other during their "Charming Singalong".
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this Is the Southern Water Tribe standard greeting.
  • Often seen in Gargoyles although sometimes the animation made it look like they were grabbing each other's wrists.

Fist Bump[edit | hide]

"Hey, man, how's it going?" "Pretty cool, bro, pretty cool."

A less excitable version, this substitute is decidedly casual. It's somewhere in between a handshake and a high-five in meaning, combining greeting with familiarity and victory. Two people pump their fists against each other, but like with a too-strong grip in a handshake, bumping too hard is considered rude and needlessly confrontational. Bumping other parts of the arm together instead of the fist is also acceptable, such as in the trope picture.

Colloquially known as the brofist, though this term has a relatively different significance. A brofist is better defined as a light touch of the fists or the knuckles, and it is used more frequently as a commemorative or celebratory gesture in any situation that appeals to the two bros' sensibilities of one (or both) of them having scored/scoring.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Nanoha and Fate do the reassuring brofist ("sisfist"?) towards the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, just before they go separate ways (Nanoha, after the Cradle and Fate, to Scaglietti's bunker). They do it IN FLIGHT!
  • The example pictured above is from Berserk, specifically Owen greeting Laban after he manages to rescue a village full of people.
  • Naruto and Sasuke share one of these in the first opening sequence. Notably, these two characters never do so in canon, seldom being on good enough terms with one another.
    • Meanwhile, in the actual series, Killer Bee is fond of these.
  • Numerous times in Fullmetal Alchemist, but the penultimate chapter's cover spread takes it Up to Eleven.
  • Armbumps are the order of the day in Eyeshield 21.
  • Black*Star and Soul Eater does this with the back of their fists.
  • G Gundam has arguably the most epic brofist in the whole Gundam franchise. LOOK! THE EAST IS BURNING RED!!
  • In the fifth Kara no Kyoukai: movie, Enjou and Kokutou exchange a fistbump before splitting up to go rescue Shiki from Araya.
  • In High School DxD, Issei and Kiba do this before separating to go to their separate positions.
  • This is how Mao and Harisugawa say their hellos with each other in Harisugawa in Mirror World.

Film[edit | hide]

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Fairly ubiquitous in The Wire. In particular, when Avon is in prison, he and Stringer both fist-bump the plexiglass as a substitute.
  • Adam Savage used elbow bumps to greet some volunteers involved in a MythBusters experiment. However, the experiment was to see if he could avoid "infecting" them with his fake cold—normally, he's a hand shaker.
  • Gus and Shawn on Psych do this ALL THE TIME. Usually when they solve a case, or agree on some point, or just want to reaffirm their friendship. There's even a three-way fist bump in one episode.
  • The Doctor and companion Mickey Smith in Doctor Who. As the Doctor never has a problem hugging anyone in sight, this is presumably because Mickey is too manly to hug.
  • Howie Mandel in Deal or No Deal always greeted contestants with a fist-bump. He has misophobia (fear of contamination/germs) and is too uncomfortable to shake hands.

Toys[edit | hide]

  • For the Toa in Bionicle, this is a standard greeting. They may have been doing it before it became popular in Real Life.

Video Games[edit | hide]

Webcomics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Boxers do it before the match, because their boxing gloves make handshaking practically impossible.
  • Obama's "terrorist fist jab" - Barack Obama and his wife Michelle share a fist bump, Fox News host freaks out that it's a sign they support terrorism. Said host is fired, surprising some.
  • The fist bump has been promoted as a more hygienic alternative to the hand shake because it is less likely to spread communicable disease such as the common cold or influenza.

Dap Greeting[edit | hide]

"You know who I am, right?" "Yeah, I know."

A more 'fun' version. Though it can refer to many kinds of greetings involving hand contact, dap is best known as a complicated routine of shakes, slaps, snaps, and other contact that must be known completely by both parties involved. Often includes a Pound Hug.

A Secret Handshake usually takes this form.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • All over the place in 8 Mile.
  • Shaun and Milky do this in This Is England after the skinheads drive Shaun home.
  • Played for laughs in Undercover Brother, where the password for getting into the BROTHERHOOD headquarters is doing this with a mechanical arm.

Video Games[edit | hide]

"SLAP SLAP PUNCH"

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Call of the Cutie", the two snooty girls Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon do something like this. "Bump, bump, Sugarlump Rump!"
    • Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadance have their own version: "Sunshine! Sunshine! Ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!" It becomes a plot point when the fake Cadance doesn't recognize it, tipping Twilight off that something is wrong; the real Princess Cadance performs this to prove to Twilight that she's the real one.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In the French suburbs, the staple teenager salute is a small sideways tap followed by a light fist bump.
  • Also common in America, though it's much more common among non-white males than any other group.
    • It's also quite prevalent among junior high and high school girls. Often accompanied with a rhyme.

Peace Sign[edit | hide]

"Hi! Aren't you happy? I'm happy!"

Falling heavily out of favor recently, the Peace Sign is a leftover from the 'hippie days'. It involves making a V with one's index and middle finger while curling the remaining digits, and then holding the hand up near the shoulder. The "V for Victory" variation—in which the hand is held out triumphantly, similar to Giving Someone the Pointer Finger—is far more common in Anime than in western media.