Waving one's hands can mean avoiding details or drawing attention away from a lie of an unsupported part of an argument or story. There is an entire Wikipedia article on the topic if you want more detail.

I would like to know how to wave hands in classical Latin. More precisely:

  • Does any direct translation of waving hands (like manus iactare) have an idiomatic non-literal meaning?
  • What would be a good way to express hand-waving in classical Latin? Is there a verb, noun, or other phrase that captures the idea?

1 Answer 1


Quintilian, whose students were hoping to make it in the professional world, is very conventional. He tells them to avoid too many jokes, cut down on the metaphors, and certainly none of that tricksy Greek word play with clever-clever hidden meaning. So he tells his students to avoid any sort of arm-waving.

Gestio, gestire, gestivi or gestii, old imperfect gestibant.
2. Figurative, rambling, and digression. Quintilian 10, 5,15.

But for Ovid, Livy, Cicero gestio is just enthusiastic body language. If you want to talk about silly arm-waving, that would be...

Gesticulor, -atus to gesticulate, to mime, to make pantomime gestures.

Notice the derisory diminutive -cul- (cf. cacula, -ae m. rare, a military page')

Apologies for an over personal, opinionated view. Fritz Graf offers a fuller, more balanced view in a pdf which has a section on Quintilian.

  • 1
    What is scacula? I can't find it in L&S.
    – TKR
    Feb 21, 2017 at 18:41
  • @TKR appears to be a misprint for cacula !st m. a military page; a soldier’s servant or slave. (Plautus)
    – Hugh
    Feb 22, 2017 at 4:10

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