So I found this article around it, but does not mentioned references and not sure if its comprehensive.

The pinky-promise, more serious than we thought Posted by Camayak plug-in | Nov 4, 2015 | Features, People & Culture | 0 The pinky-promise, more serious than we thought

enter image description here pinky promise.jpg

By: MACKINNON WESSEL [email protected]

A childhood friend hopefully and intently reaches out their little pinky for the comfort of a comrade’s and ultimately their promise to uphold an oath. For some, that oath is lost in childhood debauchery. In fact, the “pinky-promise” is commonly seen as a childish thing, meaningless and not to be taken seriously. Many are guilty of breaking pinky-promises.

The pinky-promise is not to be snubbed. Throughout history, this promise has not been taken lightly and the consequences are actually pretty serious. If we all knew the origins and the actual meaning of the pinky-promise, we might take it more seriously. Or we might be missing a finger.

The pinky swear originated in Japan and has existed in America since at least 1860 when it was mentioned in Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms, accompanied by the following promise:

“Pinky, pinky, bow-bell. Whoever tells a lie will sink down to a bad place and never rise up again.”

This seems like a pretty extreme punishment. Unfortunately, for all those pinky-promise breakers, it gets worse.

In Japan, the pinky swear is often referred to as “yubikiri” or “finger cut-off” and is commonly used in the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia. This promise indicated that whoever broke the pinky swear or did not follow through with the promise lost a finger. The wronged party would cut off the pinky of the one who broke the promise.

According to sites.psu.edu, the pinky swear is believed to have been coined from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s. Prostitutes cut off the tips of their pinkies and gave them away to customers, implying their affections were so ardent they were willing to commit suicide. That’s some serious dedication.

How’s that for extreme? Next time someone reaches out their little finger make sure you think twice before locking pinkys. Otherwise, you’ll have vengeful elementary school kids or knowledgeable college students after your finger. Protect the pinky.

  • 4
    I had to read it a couple of times to understand you are not trollling. Perhaps this is something cultural for Americans/British, but for anyone else it sounds ludicrous.
    – Jos
    Jan 9, 2018 at 1:30
  • @Jos I first heard about it when I served alongside members of the US military! I thought it was an American thing, although It may be becoming more common in the UK now since I've also seen it on US TV programmes... :) Jan 9, 2018 at 2:41
  • @Jos It's common throughout East Asia. Aside from the Japanese practice mentioned in OP, there's also a Chinese ritual for making "100 year promises" by hooking the pinky. Possibly because that finger is associated with marriage in traditional fortune telling? But in Western media I only recall seeing it from Americans, not the British.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 9, 2018 at 7:31
  • 3
    @semaphore: I live 25 years in Southeast Asia, in Thailand. Where superstitions are not just super but super super. We have prime ministers who create policy based on what their soothsayers say. I never heard about it.
    – Jos
    Jan 10, 2018 at 0:27
  • 2
    @Jos Even Thailand's generals know about it: "Thai military launches 'Little Sister Pinky Promise' mascot to promote reconciliation"
    – Semaphore
    Jan 10, 2018 at 9:06

1 Answer 1


most don't know that the pinky swear is masonic and it's actually two snakes making a pact. if you look close you will see that the 3 middle fingers are the coils the thumb is the head and the pinky is the tail. enter image description here

  • 6
    What's the source of this information?
    – Steve Bird
    Mar 31, 2020 at 19:58

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