It’s called the pinky, or the pinkie, or the little finger. It looks insignificant enough, but it carries a lot of power. Whereas the thumb works alongside the index finger and middle finger in precision work, the pinky works with the ring finger for sheer brute strength. The loss of the pinky means the loss of 50% of the gripping strength of the hand. Lose the ring finger as well, and you’ve lost 67% of the power of the hand. This is crucial for things like swinging a baseball bat, wielding an axe, using a hammer, or picking up a suitcase. That being said, however, the pinky has the least range of motion of any finger.

How did it come to be called the pinky? Well, the only thing that’s certain is that it has nothing to do with the color pink. The color pink sprang from a carnation-like flower called “the pink” that was pink in color. The flower had jagged edges, and when scissors were invented that cut in a saw-tooth pattern, they were named pinking shears. The pinky finger has nothing whatsoever to do with any of this.

There are two schools of thought concerning the name. First is the Dutch word “pink” meaning “small” or “narrow.” “Pinkie” therefore refers to anything that is diminutive in size.

The second school of thought is composed of language scholars who point out that the German, Swedish, and Danish languages all use the word “finger” and the Dutch say “vinger.” But other Proto-Indo-European languages use the word “pengkrós” meaning “five in number” (as in five fingers), and “pengke” or “penkwe” are diminutive forms of the word, denoting the smallest of the five fingers. No one really knows for sure which is the true origin of the name.

It’s difficult to curl your pinky down towards the palm of the hand without the ring finger bending down as well; a muscle in the palm links the two fingers together.

Try this: curl your middle finger down to your palm, then lay your hand flat on a table. Lift up your thumb and put it down again; lift your index finger and lay it down; raise your pinky and set it down. Now lift the ring finger. Bet you can’t!

Fractures of the pinky finger and the metacarpal – the bone that extends from the base of the finger into the hand – occur about twice as often as fractures to any other finger and metacarpal, including the thumb.

There are no muscles in the pinky or any of the five fingers. The fingers are all controlled by tendons that are hooked up to the muscles in the hand.

Should you extend your pinky finger while having tea with the Queen? No, you should not, according to etiquette experts. This is considered pretentious snobbery.

In the U.S., kids often “pinky swear” or “pinky promise” by linking pinkies. Children in Korea and China also do this, adding a thumb stomp to seal a deal. This likely harkens back to the 1600s in Japan, where gangsters would link pinkies when swearing an oath. If that oath were broken, the offender would lose part or all of his pinky.

In China, holding up the pinky finger is just as offensive as holding up the middle finger is in the U.S. In India, holding up the pinky means, “Go away, I don’t want to speak to you.”    In Turkey, people link pinkies to secure a bet. In Russia, when lovers kiss, then entwine their pinkies. In Indonesia, pointing the pinky finger down indicates a need to use the bathroom. And in many Western cultures, wiggling the pinky finger towards a man is a grave insult to his manhood.