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A Secret Handshake is a gesture used in greeting between two members of a secret society, or a private club, or a covert organization as a means to identify themselves to one another. In comedies, this secret handshake will be so long and involved that its utterly unlikely anyone would actually perform it for real. This can be Played for Laughs in two ways:

1. The excessively elaborate secret handshake is noticed by everyone, advertising rather than concealing the secret.

2. The odd ritual is not noticed, to the point where the lack of attention becomes absurd in itself.

Note that the Secret Handshake doesn't have to be an actual handshake, but can be any sort of identifying hand gesture.

A subtrope of Handshake Substitute.

Examples of Secret Handshake include:



 Dewey: We're going to work on that later, it's a very long shake.

  • Miguel and Tulio from The Road to El Dorado have a short one; they use it to seal the promise that "Chel is off-limits." Not that it lasted long.
  • One of the main cast of Revenge of the Nerds gains access to Lambda Lambda Lambda because he knows the fraternity's secret handshake.
  • Undercover Brother. To prove his worthiness to enter the BROTHERHOOD headquarters, the title character goes through an involved handshake with a mechanical arm.
  • The Parent Trap remake included a ridiculously complex secret handshake between Annie and her buddy butler, just to ramp up the logistical difficulty over the original movie in "switching places", since Hallie had to learn it.
  • Sin Nombre. Mara Salvatrucha gang members identify each each other with an upside down devils head for "M". Truth in Television


  • The main character in I Will Fear No Evil proves his/her identity to the judge with a secret fraternity handshake.
  • In the Magic Kingdom of Landover book A Princess of Landover, the two G'home Gnomes have an elaborate secret handshake so that no one else can pretend to be them (leading the titular princess to wonder why anyone would want to be them).
  • In Guards Guards the main villain creates a secret society made up from people who would be rejected from any other secret society "the sort to dislocate their fingers with even the simplest secret handshake".
  • The Freemason Expys in Sherlock Holmes do this. They also have a secret salute and a few sign-countersign phrases. Despite this, they're mostly just an over-ceremonial charity organization - except, of course, for the offshoot featured in the story.

Live Action TV

  • The "be seeing you" okay-sign from The Prisoner.
    • This one was used as a Shout-Out in Babylon5, as a means of identifying the conspirators behind the assassination of President Santiago.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus Episode 17 had two examples of "Masonic" handshakes.
  • On an episode of Psych, Shawn manages to fake one of these--using his special brand of commentary--to sneak into a lodge meeting:

 Shawn: Hold it, fold it, skim it! Crouching tiger, zookeeper's boy, hairdresser on fire, girlfriend in a coma, slap it on a biscuit.

  • Series 4 of Torchwood shows an example of this in a flash back to Captain Jack's life in the 20s, where a trio of men each grasp another's wrist with their hand, forming a triangle between them.
  • In My Hero, Ultronians perform a single wave of their elbows directed towards each other as a greeting, joined with the phrase "zneet", or sometimes "zneet znadder zneet".
  • In Kamen Rider Fourze, Gentaro and Yuki had a Secret Handshake back in grade school, which they quickly bring into their Kamen Rider Club[1]. Whenever Gentaro does the shake with someone, it marks the moment where they join his ever-expanding circle of friends.

Tabletop Games

  • Given the numerous Secret Societies in Alpha Complex, Paranoia can be rife with these. Devious GMs are encouraged to give the players' societies secret handshakes that are very similar to some other group's handshake, then direct them to find an ally and sit back as Hilarity Ensues.

Video Games

  • Quest for Glory has the Thief Sign, which consists of putting your thumb on your nose, hand perpendicular to the face and fingers outspread, then wiggling your fingers while focusing your eyes on your thumb and patting your belly with the other hand. It's specifically designed to be incredibly silly so non-Thieves will just assume you've having some kind of seizure and dismiss it as nothing.
  • In Geist, John Raimi uses a complicated handshake to convince Bryson of his identity. This is tough for Bryson to swallow, since Raimi's inhabiting the body of a woman.
  • Snake and Otacon do this right after Otacon's sister dies in his arms. It's up to him to rescue the hostages, and Snake tries to pull him together.

Web Original

  • Homestar Runner and the King of Town actually do this at the very beginning of Ever and More as part of a recruiting ceremony performed by the Brothernal Order of Different Helmets. And yes, neither of them have arms.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons: after Homer joins the Stonecutters, he gives the secret handshake to his plumber so the plumber will fix his leaky basement pipes for free.
    • In another episode, another billionaire asks Mr Burns to perform the "billionnaire's secret handshake". Something very acrobatic ensues.
      • The handshake ended with their combined hands forming a $.
  • Bender proves he was part of the Robot House Fraternity in Futurama with this. His version is described as "close enough" — and he accidentally tears one of the other guy's fingers off.
  • In one episode of Sonic Sat AM, Robotnik replaces Sally with a robot duplicate. It's good enough to pass muster for most of the episode, but when it fails to perform the secret handshake, Sonic realizes something's up.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Lucius does this with a mechanical hand as a means of getting into his vault.
  • On The Ren and Stimpy Show, Stimpy and Ren's cousin Sven are members of the Loyal Order of Stupids. Their "secret handshake" consists of gently biting the inflated gloves on each others' heads.
  • One Robot Chicken sketch features a two men who recognize each other from their college days and do their fraternity's secret handshake, which devolves into face-slaps, punches, and kneeing each other in the groin.
  • In a SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Patrick tries to test Mr. Krab's coolness by seeing if he knows the "secret cool guy handshake". As a shot in the dark, Mr. Krabs just shakes Patricks hand as straightforward as possible and passes.

 Mr. Krabs: How do you do?

Patrick: Fine, and you? All right, your in.

  • In the season 2 finale of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadance have a variation, though they don't actually shake hoofs the idea is more-or-less the same. This also serves as both the first clue to Twilight that the first Cadance is a fake when she doesn't recognize the "handshake" and how the real Cadance convinces Twilight that she's the real one, by performing the handshake for her.
    • Sunshine! Sunshine! Ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!

Real Life

  • Basically any secret society will have a form of greeting for fellow members, or a way of testing to see if a new arrival is one. The Free Masons are the secret society that's best-known and there have been stories about what their Secret Handshake might be. It's supposedly a regular handshake, but the ring finger is... wait, who's that at the door? WHAT? NO! NOT YOU! (Troper screams) (disappears)
  1. For the curious, it's a handshake, reverse hand grip, fist tap from top, then bottom, then a fist bump