Flipping the bird

Posted by R. Berg on January 08, 2002 at

In Reply to: Flipping the bird posted by ESC on January 08, 2002

: : Where does the phrase "flipping someone the bird" come from?

: I couldn't find anything on the use of "bird" for finger in this phrase.

The following, from Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English may be relevant although it makes no mention of the hand gesture. To give someone the bird is "to dismiss [him], send him about his business . . . late C. 19-20. [From] the theatre . . . In Australia, 'give the bird' is to treat with derision: from before 1916."
In obsolete theatrical usage (Partridge gives a date of 1883), "the bird" is defined as "a hissing of an actor," from the sound made by geese.