wave [intransitive, transitive] to move your hand or arm from side to side in the air in order to attract attention, say hello, etc.

The people on the bus waved and we waved back.

wave at/to somebody Why did you wave at him?

He waved to the crowd as they greeted him.

wave something The driver leaped out, waving his fist and swearing.

wave something about/around A man in the water was shouting and waving his arms around frantically.

wave something at somebody She waved her hand dismissively at the housekeeper.

wave somebody something My mother was crying as I waved her goodbye.

wave something to somebody My mother was crying as I waved goodbye to her.

flick ​[transitive] flick something + adv./prep. to hit something lightly with a sudden quick movement, especially using your finger and thumb together, or your hand

She flicked the dust off her collar.

The horse was flicking flies away with its tail.

James flicked a peanut at her.

Please don't flick ash on the carpet!

The striker flicked the ball into the back of the net.

She snatched up her briefcase and flicked it open.

This is the action that a child often does. That is after washing his hands, he may wave his soaked hands at someone's face just for fun, and that makes many drops of water land on that person's face.

How would you express that action in English?

He waved his soaked hands at my face for fun


He flicked the water from his soaked hands onto my face for fun?

  • 2
    Soaked hands doesn't sound right. Hands only get wet on the surface, they don't soak up water like a sponge. How about He shook his wet hands in my face? Feb 2, 2020 at 15:44
  • 1
    He flicked water in my face from his wet hands Feb 2, 2020 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


In everyday English we shake water from our hands (or feet or hair) but flick it from our fingers. And we usually speak of having wet hands, not soaked ones: perhaps because - as Kate Bunting says - the skin doesn't soak up water; though hair does, sort of.

If it isn't clear from the context - from their existing friendliness - that the child is doing it for fun, I would suggest, "He shook his wet hands at me good-humouredly" [Humoredly US] or perhaps, "Smiling (or grinning or laughing), he shook his wet hands in my face," or "He shook his hands, flicking the water in my face," or simply, "He flicked water in my face, good-humouredly." (With that comma seems better.)

[Btw, your question isn't concerned with style, but I've suggested alternatives to 'for fun', which maybe sounds a little po-faced; a little staid.]

I wonder where you found your examples. I think they are all good and colloquial except the fifth, "The driver leaped out, waving his fist and swearing", which uses waving incorrectly. People don't wave their fists: they shake them.

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