The question Why is the mouse cursor slightly tilted and not straight? brought up this related question.

Why is the hand symbol used instead of any other symbol, say a spade, for the purpose of a hand pointer?

Then question mark pointer


for the what-is/help functionality is logically understandable. But why the hand?


2 Answers 2


MSDN states that the hand pointer is called the Link select and it is used for text and graphic links because of their weak affordance.

msdn pointers

  • 2
    Is the affordance that an outstretched finger affords pushing on something (like a link)? Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 3:49

The hand cursor made one of its earliest appearances in Hypercard stacks. Hypercard allowed hyperlinking between various pages within a document and this is where the use of the mouse cursor started. Like a lot of things, it perhaps it got picked up and got carried along.

With regards to its use in web design, perhaps the reason the hand icon was suggested was to differentiate links from textual content. Initially hyperlinks in websites started in blocks of text and as such it wasn't obvious that you could click on them to open another page and the affordance of the hand pointer indicated the difference.

  • In some ways HyperCard was the for-runner of websites. I presume this is why the protocol is called 'HTTP' Hypertext transfer protocol.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 20:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.