ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements

Woman jogging in the park
Johner Images/Getty Images

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

Verb Body Part Definition Example
blink eyes wink the eye; close eye rapidly without conscious effort; link wink but not intended He blinked rapidly as he tried to see in the bright sun.
glance eyes a quick look at something or someone He glanced at the documents and gave his OK.
stare eyes a long penetrating look at something or someone He stared at the painting on the wall for over ten minutes.
wink eye close eye rapidly with a conscious effort; like blink but intended He gave me a wink to signal that he understood.
point finger spot or show something with the finger He pointed to his friend in the crowd.
scratch finger scrape the skin If something itches then you probably need to scratch it.
kick foot strike with the foot He kicked the ball into the goal.
clap hands applaud The audience clapped enthusiastically at the end of the concert.
punch hands to strike with a fist Boxers try to knock out their opponents by punching them in the face.
shake hands move back and forth; greeting when seeing someone He shook the present to see if he could understand what was inside.
slap hands strike with an open hand Don't ever slap a child, no matter how angry you become.
smack hands similar to slap He smacked the table hard to emphasize the point he had just made.
nod head to move the head up and down He nodded his approval of what the candidate was saying as he was listening.
shake head to move the head from side to side He shook his head violently to show his disagreement with what she was saying.
kiss lips touch with the lips He sweetly kissed his wife as they toasted their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
whistle lips / mouth make a sound by blowing air through the lips He whistled his favorite tune as he drove to work.
eat mouth to introduce food into the body He usually eats lunch at noon.
mutter mouth to speak softly, often in a manner which is hard to understand He muttered something about how difficult his boss was and went back to work.
talk mouth to speak They spoke about old times and the fun they had had together as children.
taste mouth to perceive flavor with the tongue He tasted the vintage wine with relish.
whisper mouth to speak softly, usually without voice He whispered his secret into my ear.
breathe mouth to respire; take air into the lungs Just breathe that wonderful morning air. Isn't it fantastic!
smell nose to sense through the nose; to give scent Roses smell wonderful.
sniff nose short inhalation, often to smell something He sniffed the various perfumes and decided on Joy No. 4.
shrug shoulder raise the shoulders, usually to show indifference to something He shrugged when I asked him to explain why he had arrived late.
bite mouth grip with the teeth and introduce into the mouth He took a big bite out of the fresh apple.
chew mouth grind food with the teeth You should always chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.
stub toe strike one's toe into something He stubbed his toe on the door.
lick tongue draw tongue across something He licked his ice-cream cone contentedly.
swallow throat send down the throat, usually food and drink He 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
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "ESL Vocabulary Words for Body Movements." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).