The “pinky finger” is the smallest finger of the human hand, opposite the thumb, and next to the ring finger.
And no, it’s not called “pinky” because it’s little and pink and therefore cute. The word is derived from the Dutch word pinkje, meaning “little finger.”
In some places “pinky” is also a traditional name for the youngest child in a family or for a baby mouse, especially when used as food for a snake. Pinky (plural pinkies) may also mean the little toe or “little piggy.”
The earliest recorded use of the term “pinkie” is in Scotland in 1808, although the term is virtually unknown in contemporary British English, but commonplace in American English.
Amazingly, there are nine muscles that control the little finger and, if you injure it, you lose half the strength of your hand. Though the index and middle fingers function, with the thumb, in pinching and grabbing zippers and buttons, the pinky teams up with the ring finger to provide power.
Injuries of the pinky occur twice as often as those involving the thumb or other fingers. People may think, because they don’t feel pain and can move the finger, that it’s not broken but that’s often not true. It pays to check — repairs to a broken small finger can involve pins, screws, and plates. After the broken bone is set, therapy can include heat, ultrasound, neuromuscular stimulation, splinting, and manual exercise.
Though the pinky is small, it’s important. Among American children, a “pinky swear” or “pinky promise” is made when a person wraps one of their pinky fingers around another person’s pinky and makes a promise.
Also, it is traditional for a man to wear a signet ring on the little finger of his left hand, a practice still common in European cultures. Nowadays, the tradition has relaxed and a signet ring may be worn on any finger. Most Canadian engineers wear the Iron Ring as a symbol of pride in the engineering profession, and it is always worn on the pinky of the dominant hand. In the US, the Engineer’s Ring is a stainless steel ring worn on that same finger.
It is most definitely not necessary to extend the little finger when drinking from a teacup. Simply tuck it neatly under the ring finger, out of the way. Unless, of course, you can use that cute little pinky to hook a donut or a muffin.