What It Means When Someone Touches Their Nose

Photo: LightField Studios / Shutterstock
man touching his nose

It’s said that communication is 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal. And though the exact accuracy of that specific statistic is debated, its message is true: body language is integral to interpreting what others are saying. So much so that FBI agents, police, and even parents often rely on body language to suss out the truth.

In a recent episode of Russell Brand’s podcast “Under the Skin,” Brand discusses the culture of misinformation we live in, focusing on Bill Gates to make his point.

In one excerpt of the podcast posted on Instagram, Brand shows a clip of Gates speaking at a conference. In the clip, Gates quickly touches his nose with his right hand before answering a question.

“Don’t touch your nose. We’ve all seen those videos...” Brand says about the clip.

Nose touching is a seemingly innocent gesture, yet one considered important enough by people who pay attention to body language for Brand to feel it's one worth noting.

What does it mean when someone touches their nose?

Nose touching is thought to have a variety of meanings based on exactly how and in what context it is done. While someone who touches the side of their nose may subconsciously be saying that the thing they are talking about is a secret, for example, someone who touches the tip of their nose may instead be sending you a subconscious insult.

RELATED: 4 Big Mistakes You Make When Reading Someone's Body Language

Nose Touching Body Language Meanings

1. Touching the side of your nose indicates secrecy.

Touching the nose while speaking is considered a body language sign that someone wants to keep the information that’s being shared a secret. Some cultures also take the gesture as a warning not to believe what’s being said.

This is the gesture that Gates makes in Brand’s video. Brand’s response to the gesture suggests that he believes the businessman, who’s been a key proponent of coronavirus vaccines, doesn’t want something about the conversation to get out to the public.

2. Touching your nose and then pointing at someone indicates knowledge.

This is a conscious gesture someone uses to let the person they're pointing at know that they're onto them.

It's similar to someone using two fingers to point at their own eyes and then point at you, which means that person is saying that they're watching you closely. In this case, think of it as a play on words. The person touching their nose and then pointing at you "nose" what you're up to.

3. Brushing your nose indicates discomfort.

People tend to get antsy when subjected to uncomfortable situations, which is likely caused by the increased adrenaline rushing through the body. There are some body language signs that someone is nervous, including picking the nails, cracking knuckles, and brushing the nose with a finger.

According to experts, if someone repeatedly brushes their nose with their forefinger, it’s also a sign of stress.

RELATED: Why You Get ‘Butterflies In Your Stomach’ Around Someone (Even When You’re Already In A Relationship)

4. Touching the tip of your nose indicates disdain.

The phrase "thumb your nose" is an old insult that originated in Europe that basically meant "eff you." The gesture included putting the tip of the thumb on the tip of the nose with the palm open and wiggling the rest of the fingers that stick up into the air.

5. Pinching the bridge of your nose indicates frustration.

In situations where people feel overwhelmed, you’ll notice many of them pinch the top of the bridge of the nose between the eyes with their index finger and thumb.

That area of the nose is filled with blood vessels that quickly fill with blood when the body enters stress mode. Experts say this gesture is a subconscious reaction meant to help decrease blood flow and help the person relax.

Likewise, you may see someone create a sort of pyramid with their two index fingers around this area of the nose. This has a similar effect to the pinch, allowing the person to cut off the overwhelming information coming in and center themselves.

6. Rubbing your nose intensely indicates an actual itch.

Of course, not every gesture regarding the nose is a sign of deceit or stress. The nose may actually itch for a number of reasons, and not always at the most opportune moments.

In these cases, you’ll notice that someone may continue rubbing their nose until the itch goes away.

RELATED: How To Clear Your Stuffy Nose In 2 Minutes Flat

Micki Spollen is an editor, writer, and traveler. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her travels on her website.