What is a Secret Handshake?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A handshake is considered in most cultures to be a form of greeting and a gesture of good will. Sometimes it can even represent a congratulatory moment, as for instance, people shaking the hand of a graduate or a groom. A secret handshake, conversely, is meant to express affinity with a certain group or organization. Such groups can include clubs, sports organizations, fraternities, or in unfortunate cases, even gangs. Sometimes two good friends will develop their own secret handshake, and part of the fun is making the handshake as difficult as possible.

Some organizations, such as fraternities or the Masons, may use a secret handshake for identification purposes.
Some organizations, such as fraternities or the Masons, may use a secret handshake for identification purposes.

A secret handshake often involves complex gestures, various elements of touching the fingers together, or shaking the hands in different grips. While the term “secret handshake” implies secrecy, many of these handshakes are quite well known and can, like a tell in poker, betray affinity with a secret society or organization.

A handshake is considered to be a form of greeting and a gesture of good will.
A handshake is considered to be a form of greeting and a gesture of good will.

For example, police are trained to recognize a secret handshake that might belong to a particular gang. Often an organization of any kind uses different handshakes for different occasions. For example a new member of the Freemasons learns a first handshake, and then will learn further handshakes as he has elevated status as a Freemason.

An easily recognized secret handshake of the Freemasons looks very much like a regular handshake, but the thumb presses into the knuckles of the other person’s index finger. This secret handshake is used among new members to the Freemasons and indicates their status as newbies.

Occasionally the term secret handshake is applied in a completely different sense. It may be used to describe a previously unknown relationship between two things or two people. For example, the book The Secret Handshake written by Kathleen Kelly Reardon, uses the term secret handshake to refer to hidden rules in the politics of corporations. Reardon’s book is an attempt to bring to light the unspoken truths that seem to lead to success in top corporations.

There are plenty of Internet suggestions for developing a secret handshake for fun. One can choose from thousands of variations for your own secret handshake. For safety, one should be certain these handshakes do not appear to be gang handshakes. One can examine certain gang symbols and handshakes online so as not to unintentionally duplicate.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@ Highlighter- There are numerous websites and books that divulge information on super-secret handshakes of the freemasons as well as historical information about the organization. Like comparables said though, you should take what you read with a grain of salt. The organizations secretive nature leaves volumes for the imagination of conspiracy theorists and the likes.


@ Highlighter- The freemasons are a secret society of likeminded members who share similar beliefs. The society's members are a diverse group of people who organize to support each other. They are actually not politically aligned, or religiously aligned. They do not accept atheists within their ranks, but they do not dictate how one believes in his god. There is a lot of information available on the freemasons as well as many misconceptions. The best place to start your search for information on freemasons would be on the website for your state's chapter.


How do I learn about secret societies and what they stand for? What do societies like the freemasons do, and are they good for society? I am just curious about the subject since it is clouded under so much mystery. I almost think that they would be detested by the average person if their true actions and ideals were known to the public.

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