Alex beckons me to come nearby.
Alex beckons Sam to come nearby.
Alex beckons Sam to follow him.

Does beckons fits well in the above sample sentences or I should better use 'signals' instead as below? I want to mean Alex uses his hands to gesture, so I thought signals doesn't mean the use of hand gestures but beckons does.

Alex signals me to come nearby.
Alex signals Sam to come nearby.
Alex signals Sam to follow him.
  • I use beckon exclusively for when you hold your hand out in a loose fist, palm up, and extend your index finger and then bend it inward in a motion that says "come here". If he waves them over or motions them over then those are also hand/arm gestures but they aren't beckoning. Others may have a different take on this, though. – Jim Mar 14 '14 at 2:45
  • I believe that you can use beckon when you move your head in the way that says "come here" too. I think "come here" is the main usage of beckon. – Damkerng T. Mar 14 '14 at 2:52

Interesting discussion.

The woman in your picture is definitely 'beckoning'. Your usage of the word 'beckon' is correct.

Beckon is a specific gesture. Signal can mean hundreds of gestures. So, beckon is a specific act while signalling can mean anything.

Also, I must remark on the use of the adverb 'nearby', which is incorrect. You must say:

Alex beckons Sam to come closer.

You mean to say closer than he already is.

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  • The woman is in my answer! ;) where you posting this as a comment to my answer? – Maulik V Mar 15 '14 at 10:46
  • @NeilDSilva Is beckon used only in casual situation? What word would you use when you call someone in a serious situation? The picture in the women seems to be very happy, so I guess this is word won't fit when you call someone when the context is something serious. – T2E Mar 15 '14 at 20:16


For the first two, I'd prefer beckon because, it means giving signal with hands or nod

beckon (v) - Signal with the hands or nod

Look at the image, she's beckoning. Here, it seems she's just calling someone nearby and not asking following.

Source: depositphoto - only for illustration

So, when Alex beckons, he asks (whoever) to come nearby.

Now, when you ask someone to follow, I've observed this in movies that the asker either turns a bit to a direction s/he is going and signals or raises eyebrows with a little tilt of face signaling someone to follow them in a particular direction. That way, I think, signal fits better than beckon.

Also, she signaled him to follow is quite common. This is one of the examples on the Oxford.

Note that signal of 'to follow' may have an act of beckoning but all in all, it is more than beckoning.

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  • I think I misunderstood the word. I thought I can use beckon even in the place I gestures my hand by stretching the four fingers straight and folding toward me and repeating this to call someone. So my understanding is wrong? What word I should use in my case? – T2E Mar 15 '14 at 20:11
  • @t2e that's okay. – Maulik V Mar 16 '14 at 6:28

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