ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements

Woman jogging in the park
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There are a number of verbs that used to express body movements. These are movements made with a specific part of the body. Here are some examples:

He clapped his hands in time to the music.
Stop scratching that would. It'll never heal!
Nod once for 'yes' and twice for 'no'. 
She whistled a tune as she walked down the street. 

The following chart provides each verb indicating the part of the body used to make the movement, as well as providing an ESL definition and an example for each verb.

Verbs Used with Body Movements


Body Part



blinkeyes    wink the eye; close eye rapidly without conscious effort; link wink but not intendedHe blinked rapidly as he tried to see in the bright sun.glanceeyesa quick look at something or someoneHe glanced at the documents and gave his OK.stareeyes    a long penetrating look at something or someone    He stared at the painting on the wall for over ten minutes.winkeye    close eye rapidly with a conscious effort; like blink but intendedHe gave me a wink to signal that he understood.pointfingerspot or show something with the fingerHe pointed to his friend in the crowd.scratchfingerscrape the skinIf something itches then you probably need to scratch it.kickfootstrike with the footHe kicked the ball into the goal.claphandsapplaudThe audience clapped enthusiastically at the end of the concert.

punchhandsto strike with a fistBoxers try to knock out their opponents by punching them in the face.shakehands    move back and forth; greeting when seeing someoneHe shook the present to see if he could understand what was insideslaphandsstrike with an open handDon't ever slap a child, no matter how angry you become.smackhandssimilar to slapHe smacked the table hard to emphasize the point he had just made.nodheadto move the head up and downHe nodded his approval of what the candidate was saying as he was listening.shakeheadto move the head from side to sideHe shook his head violently to show his disagreement with what she was saying.kisslipstouch with the lipsHe sweetly kissed his wife as they toasted their fiftieth wedding anniversary.whistlelips / mouthmake a sound by blowing air through the lipsHe whistled his favorite tune as he drove to work.eatmouth    to introduce food into the bodyHe usually eats lunch at noon.muttermouth    to speak softly, often in a manner which is hard to understandHe muttered something about how difficult his boss was and went back to work.talkmouthto speakThey spoke about old times and the fun they had had together as children.tastemouthto perceive flavor with the tongueHe tasted the vintage wine with relish.whispermouthto speak softly, usually without voiceHe whispered his secret into my ear.breathemouthto respire; take air into the lungsJust breathe that wonderful morning air.
Isn't it fantastic!smellnoseto sense through the nose; to give scentRoses smell wonderful.sniffnoseshort inhalation, often to smell somethingHe sniffed the various perfumes and decided on Joy No. 4.shrugshoulderraise the shoulders, usually to show indifference to somethingHe shrugged when I asked him to explain why he had arrived late.bitemouthgrip with the teeth and introduce into the mouthHe took a big bite out of the fresh applechewmouthgrind food with the teethYou should always chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.stubtoestrike one's toe into something    He stubbed his toe on the door.licktonguedraw tongue across somethingHe licked his ice-cream cone contentedly.swallowthroatsend down the throat, usually food and drinkHe swallowed his food even though he wasn't hungry.


Body Movements Quiz

Use one of the verbs from the chart to fill in the gap for each of these sentences. Be careful with verb conjugation.

  1. Just relax, _______ through your mouth and think about happy times.
  2. He just ________ his shoulders and walked away. 
  3. _____ your secret into my ear. I won't tell anyone. I promise!
  4. We ______ hands before we began the meeting yesterday.
  5. Try to _____ the ball into the goal of the other team, not ours!
  6. If you put so much food into your mouth you won't be able to _____.
  7. She _____ at her friend, letting her know that this was a joke.
  8. Don't chew on hard candy. _____ it and it will last longer.
  9. She ______ the sauce and decided it needed some more salt. 
  10. I don't like to ______ into other people's eyes for too long. It makes me nervous.


  1. breathe
  2. shrugged
  3. whisper
  4. shook 
  5. kick
  6. swallow
  7. winked
  8. lick
  9. tasted (sniffed / smelled)
  10. stare