Is there any semantic difference between those two sentences? I've seen both used in works of fiction recently, but I'm not sure if there's some difference.

She folded her arms.

She crossed her arms.

  • 3
    As I understand it, one folds one's arms across one's chest, often with one or both hands tucked into one's armpits. But one can cross one's arms over one's head, across one's stomach or even behind one's back. Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 22:32
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    What Ronald Sole said. In general there is no difference unless you include additional information, "Going into the yoga pose, she crossed her arms behind her back and leaned forward, balancing on one leg."
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


When using the terms without other context:

She crossed her arms.

She folded her arms.

To my [Southern US] ear, there is no strong semantic difference, although there is a slight difference in feeling. "Crossed" conveys slightly more tension, while folded sounds slightly more relaxed. Both sentences describe the same posture.

If there is more to the phrase, as in

She crossed her arms behind her back.

then a different posture is described and the equivalence breaks down. I can cross my arms behind my back, but I don't think I can fold them back there.

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