hand-waving

noun

hand-wav·​ing ˈhan(d)-ˌwā-viŋ How to pronounce hand-waving (audio)
variants or less commonly handwaving or hand waving
1
: movement with the hand or hands made as a signal to another
Over the last decade, the frenzied screaming and hand-waving on exchange trading floors has started to go the way of the horse and buggy.Gail Marks Jarvis
The woman and I cobbled together a lingua franca through hand-waving and the bits of Mandarin and Cantonese we both could understand.Madelyne Xiao
2
: insubstantial and unsupported or ineffective statements, arguments, actions, etc., especially when intended to distract or mislead
In many respects, his essay is the quintessence of the form, a frustrating exercise in bland soul-searching, misdirection, and hand-waving.Laura Miller
If this explanation seems a bit like hand waving, it is. Many of the details have not been worked out.Don Lincoln
… we never, ever take concrete steps to solve our problems, no matter how much handwaving we do.Matthew Dessem
often used before another noun
a hand-waving theory/explanation/argument

Examples of hand-waving in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Degrowth’s prophets offer little more than hand-waving in response to the most elementary questions about their prescription. Editorial Board, Washington Post, 21 June 2024 In other words, Newsom’s approach involves a heaping helping of hand-waving. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 18 Apr. 2024 Conflicts last about the length of a three-minute melancholy ditty, hand-waving away any real resolution. Courtney Howard, Variety, 7 Mar. 2024 Bruce Butler, of Greenwood, leaned over to tell his 3-year-old granddaughter, Amelia Brenchley, dressed America-themed from head to toe and already practicing her hand-waving. Kayla Dwyer, The Indianapolis Star, 4 Aug. 2023 Martin is a milquetoast on the matter, hand-waving about heritage and compromise. Mark Athitakis, Washington Post, 7 June 2023 This isn’t particularly new: His whole schtick is built on rhetorical games that demand lots of sinister hand-waving but contain little of substance. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11 May 2023 But contemptuous leaders and voters who are content with hand-waving and entertaining bluster undermine the democratic idea of rule by the people. Kathleen Higgins, Scientific American, 5 Dec. 2016 My first emotional response to Reese’s hand-waving, before the negative reactions, was one of freedom and release. Tamerra Griffin, refinery29.com, 6 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hand-waving.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1827, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hand-waving was in 1827

Dictionary Entries Near hand-waving

Cite this Entry

“Hand-waving.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hand-waving. Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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