The Secret Language of Hand Fan in Spanish

The Secret Language of Hand Fan in Spanish image

Hand fans are an accessory used among all cultures from East to West. From Ancient Egypt, China, Japan, and from England to Spain.

The hand fan reached the heights of it’s splendor in nineteenth century Europe, particularly in Spain. The first hand fan in Spain dates from 1802 in Valencia and quickly became a must have among upper class women. Fans were hand crafted and hand painted with the most delicate motifs depicted on the garment.

The hand fan is not just decoration, it is a trade mark of Spain, and it became part of Spanish culture, and of course, a cheap way to keep cool in the heat.

The following are the secret language of the Spanish "Abanico"

  • Open fan over the chest showing the design “Yes”
  • Open fan over the chest showing the back “No”
  • Open fan covering one of the cheeks “I like you”
  • Wave fan very fast: “I really like you”
  • Wave fan very slowly: “I am not interested”
  • Open fan covering your nose “I want to see you”
  • Open fan covering your chin “I want to talk to you”
  • Closed fan near the heart: “I love you”
  • Open fan placed over lips: “Kiss me”
  • Close fan waving; “I am thinking about it”
  • Hit close fan against hand “Leave me alone”
  • Open and close the fan: “I am upset”
  • Open fan waving energetically on one side “Don´t come now, other people around”

History of Fans


Fans again mirrored the social and economical times in the twentieth century, with the rise of advertising and a more utilitarian and wasteful society. Today, in Europe, only in Spain is the fan part of everyday life, as it still remains in most hot countries, particularly in the Far East, and especially in Japan


Few art forms combine functional, ceremonial and decorative uses as elegantly as the fan. Fewer still can match such diversity with a history stretching back at least 3000 years. Pictorial records of the earliest fans date from around 3000 BC and there is evidence that the Greeks, the Etruscans and Romans all used fans as cooling and ceremonial devices, while Chinese literary sources associate the fan with ancient mythical and historical characters. Early fans were all of the fixed type, and the folding fan does not appear either in the East or the West until relatively late in its history. The first folding fans were inspired by and copied from prototypes brought in to Europe by merchant traders and the religious orders who had set up colonies along the coasts of China and even Japan. These early fans were reserved for Royalty and the nobility and, as expensive toys, they were regarded as a status symbol. Whiles their montures (i.e. sticks and guards) were made from materials such as ivory, mother of pearl and tortoiseshell, often carved and pierced and ornamented with silver, gold and precious stones, the leaves were well painted by craftsmen who gradually amalgamated into guilds.


By the 18th century fans were being made throughout Europe, while at the same time, fans imported from China by the East India Companies were ever popular. By the end of the eighteenth century with the cheaper printed ones in production, fans were available to every strata of society in Europe and related to an endless variety of subjects- from Nelsons Victory of the Nile to instructions on How to play Whist, and not lose your temper! In the nineteenth century (with its early political turmoil), fans again reflected the times in the small brise horn fans so popular in the 1820s. Arguably the most lavish fans date from the second half of the century. Artists who painted these fans were often fashionable painters of their day who signed their work. On the other hand, the Impressionists, for example, who did not reflect popular taste and painted fans, never made their designs into wearable objects.