What Does Tapping The Side Of Your Nose Mean? (Full Explanation)

Phrases and sayings don’t explain away all things in the English language. Some things, like tapping the side of your nose meaning, are used as a physical gesture and need further clarification before you can start using it yourself.

What Does Tapping The Side Of Your Nose Mean?

When someone taps the side of their nose, it means a few things. First, they are either keeping a secret or telling you a secret. Second, they could be telling you to trust them because they know. The gesture is made after they finish talking.

What Does Tapping The Side Of Your Nose Mean?

What Is The Origin Of Tapping The Side Of Your Nose?

The gesture itself seems to come from charades initially. Charades is a game where a group of people is split into teams. One member on a team then has to silently act out a famous book, movie, or character and have the other teammates guess it. It’s then up to the teammates to guess the concept while the actor plays along with funny silent moves.

In charades, when the teammates guess the correct answer from the silent acting, the actor taps the side of their nose to indicate that their team is correct.

However, it’s not always the case that you have to play charades when using this gesture. It’s more commonly used outside of the game and has transitioned in meaning over time. Now, it’s most closely associated with keeping a secret between two parties, or deliberately omitting information from someone, even if they know you have something they want you to tell them.

There are a few other meanings for the gesture of tapping the side of your nose, but they apply to different countries (mostly European ones).

Does Tapping The Side Of Your Nose Have Different Meanings In Different Countries?

The gesture of tapping the side of your nose seems to be most common in Britain. If you haven’t heard of it yourself, it may be because you haven’t been around British people using it before!


Britain uses the gesture the way we’ve already explained it. They mostly use it to keep a secret, either keeping it to themselves or between two people. However, it is also used to let somebody know they can trust you with information because you have the required knowledge. It’s a clever way of saying, “I’m smart enough to know this.”


In Italy, when someone taps their nose, it is usually used to say, “watch out!” That can either be a threat of some kind, by letting somebody know that they need to watch their back if they’ve insulted you, or it might be a genuine warning for caution to make sure they stay safe.


In France, if you tap your nose twice, it means one of three things. The most common meaning is you’re indicating that your intuition is telling you something is “smelly” is happening (basically that something doesn’t feel right about a situation).

It can also mean that you’re either talking with a clever person, or are pointing out a potential threat to somebody close by.


In Belgium, it’s mostly used to point out a potential threat (just like in France), though it can be used to keep a secret just like any of the other places.

You might want to be careful using it if you’re in one of these countries. Since they all have different meanings to each other, you might be trying to say one thing and end up saying something completely different!

In all of these countries, the gesture is used as a way to say something without speaking. Your actions rather than your words convey its meaning, and most natives in these countries will understand that.

When Should You Tap The Side Of Your Nose?

There are times to tap the side of your nose and times when you probably shouldn’t. It’s not the most subtle of signals. If you’re going to use it in front of someone, make sure they’re the only person looking at you. If someone else who wasn’t included in your original conversation is nearby, they might ask what you’re doing or what secret you’re keeping.

Some people may also see the gesture as rude, and you shouldn’t do it in the workplace. There’s no need to use a gesture like this, especially not around your boss. They may inquire about what you’re hiding from them, which will never lead to a pleasant conversation.

Should You Always Tap The Side Of Your Nose Twice?

There are no rules in place that tell you how many times you should or shouldn’t tap your nose. However, most people using the gesture opt to tap twice, and there are good reasons for this.

If you tap your nose once, it might be mistaken for you scratching your nose or something similar. If you tap it more than twice, people might think you look funny or are doing a strange thing to clear your nose. Tapping twice is ideal and acceptable as the recognized gesture.

Generally, people recognize the two taps as a sign of keeping a secret or showing that you know what you’re talking about. People won’t often tap for longer or less time than that. The two taps are done in quick succession as well. If you plan on using the gesture, don’t linger too long around your nose with your finger, as people will be confused!

How Should You React When Someone Else Is Tapping The Side Of Their Nose?

When someone taps the side of their nose around you, you should treat it with respect. Make sure you keep the secret if they’ve just told you one, or respect their privacy if they’re not willing to share any more with you.

The idea of the gesture is to keep it between two people. You should never announce that somebody has just tapped their nose in front of you.

The privacy of the gesture is what makes it so important. Generally, people don’t use it maliciously. That means somebody either trusts you with the information or trusts you not to tell anyone else that they made the gesture. If you announce the gesture in any way, it will often draw unwanted attention to the person who did it. This can affect them negatively, which is why it’s easier to keep quiet about it.

There is one situation where it may be acceptable for you to probe slightly further. If they’re keeping a secret that you fear might be harmful to them or somebody else, then you might want to let somebody know about it. It’s not a good idea to be involved in a secret like that, so tell someone if you have any worries.

9 Examples Of A Situation Where You Can Tap The Side Of Your Nose

Let’s go through some brief examples of when you can tap the side of your nose in company. With some of these, you can see what kind of sentences might set you up before tapping your nose. Generally, you have to say something before making the gesture. You can’t just tap your nose and expect someone to understand what you’re saying to them!

  • I have a secret to tell you! I’m not sure if I want to, though! It’s really juicy.
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • I hope you can keep this secret with me! Don’t go blabbing.
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • I’m not going to tell you who I fancy! That’s for me to know and me to know only!
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • Trust me; I know all about that. You don’t need to worry about a thing.
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • You aren’t going to get that information out of me! My lips are sealed!
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • I can’t possibly tell you more! You wish you could know, but I’m stronger than that!
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • Will you keep a secret? I’ve got a good one.
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • Where are we going for our date, you ask? That’s for me to know and you to find out.
  • *Tap the side of my nose*
  • I bet you’d like to know. Unfortunately, I won’t tell you!
  • *Tap the side of my nose*

In each of these examples, we’ve introduced a phrase spoken by somebody. After that, we’ve indicated that it’s possible to tap the side of their nose after saying any of those things.

If you’re in one of the situations that we’ve shown above, then you could be in with a chance of tapping your nose! We encourage you to try it out if you think it makes sense. However, make sure you don’t overdo it! Nobody wants to see somebody repeatedly tapping the side of their nose, trying not to let a secret slip out of their mouths!

Try out one of these examples for yourself the next time you have a secret to tell or know something that someone else might not! It’s a fun gesture, and it’s good to know.