Three-finger salute (Scouts)

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This article is about the Scouts. For other meanings, see three-finger salute.
Scouts using the three-finger salute as the Scout Sign.

The three-finger salute is used by members of Scout and Guide organisations around the world when greeting other Scouts and in respect of a national flag at ceremonies. In most situations, the salute is made with the palm face out, the thumb holding down the little finger, and with the fingertips on the brow of the head. There are some variations od the salute between national Scouting organisations and also within some programme sections.

A "half-salute", known as the Scout Sign, is also used in certain situations. The hand is still held palm facing out, and the thumb holding the little finger, but the hand is held at the shoulder instead.

Meaning of the three fingers

In his book, Scouting for Boys, Robert Baden-Powell chose the three-finger salute for Scouts to represent the three aspects of the Scout Promise:

1. Honour God and the King
2. Help Others
3. Obey the Scout Law[1]

Cub Scouts' two-finger salute

Some Cub Scouts use a two-finger salute, depending on the national Scouting organisation they belong to. This is because the Cub Scouts' precursors, the Wolf Cubs, had two laws, and the use of the two finges were to represent these laws.

Salute or sign?

Originally, Baden-Powell intended for Scouts to salute each other in greeting when they first saw each other for the first time using the "secret sign", or half-salute. This was regardless of whether the Scouts knew each other or not. Officers, such as Patrol Leaders, Scoutmasters, or members of the armed forces, were to be saluted with a full-salute.

Full-salutes were also required at the hoisting of the Union Jack, the playing of the national anthem, or at funerals.[1]


In Scouts Canada the Salute is rendered vertically, palm out similar to British Army/Commonwealth salutes, except if the member is in a Sea Scout unit where it is palm in/angled down. (Traditionally, to hide your 'dirty hands' from the ship's captain).

United Kingdom

The three-fingered salute is used by all sections, including Cub Scouts. The half-salute is used when reciting the Scout Promise when joining the meeting.

United States of America

Boy Scouts of America

In the Boy Scouts of America, the salute is a modification of the salute used by the United States armed forces (i.e., the palm is held flat and not face out), but with the hand held in the position of the Scout Sign, i.e. with the middle three fingers extended and the tips of the little finger and thumb joined.

In the USA, when in uniform, a Boy Scout salutes with the index (pointer) finger touching the forehead or hat brim. When not in uniform a Boy Scout simply places his hand over his heart.

Girl Scouts of the USA

The Girl Scouts of the USA use the same gesture when reciting their Girl Scout Pledge. The gesture was borrowed from the Boy Scouts.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Baden-Powell, Robert (2005). Scouting for Boys. Oxford. pp. page 37.