Karen Grigoryan/ShutterstockSee someone wearing a ring on their right index finger and you can bet they’re not married. A ring on the left ring finger, though, means that person is taken. Seems arbitrary, but there’s actually historical reason it became known as the “ring finger,” and why most people wear their wedding band on the left.
The wedding ring tradition dates back to ancient Egypt, as archaeologists have found evidence in hieroglyphics that brides would wear a ring, according to BBC. The Egyptians who first started wearing wedding bands as a symbol of eternity believed there was a “delicate nerve” that ran from the fourth finger all the way to the heart, according to Mental Floss. Of course, we know now that the heart is an organ for pumping blood, but back then it was thought to be the center of our emotions. Learn more about the unromantic history of engagement rings.
Egyptians weren’t the only ones giving rings away, though. Ancient Greeks and ancient Romans also slipped wedding rings on their left ring fingers for a similar reason. They believed a vena amoris—Latin for “vein of love”—ran from that finger to the heart, according to Snopes. Find out where the tradition of proposing on bended knee came from.
Even though that vein and nerve don’t exist, Western countries have continued that ancient tradition. In other cultures, such as in Denmark, Poland, and Cuba, though, wedding rings go on the right hand. Check out these other cool wedding traditions from around the world.
Traditionally, women were the only ones to wear wedding rings. Men didn’t join in until World War II, when husbands wanted something to remind them of their wives and kids.
For more engagement ring facts, learn why Kate Middleton’s engagement ring used to belong to Prince Harry.