Pinky swears are used as a way to form a pact or as a declaration of friendship between children. While the practice is considered cutesy and juvenile to older persons, children often take this kind of gesture seriously, as if their very lives, or worse, friendships, hang in the balance of words spoken over interlocked fingers.
Usually this gesture is accompanied by a rhyme or "oath" spoken in unison by the pinky swearers. This can vary by region.
While North American children tend to use the chant "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye," Japanese schoolchildren use the following "oath":
Yubikiri genman, uso tsuitara hari senbon nomasu, yubi kitta which colloquially means: "Pinky promise pledge: If you're lying, I'll make you drink a thousand needles. Pinky promised!"
"Yubikiri" means literally "finger cut", likely because of the timeless punishment of cutting off a finger if you fail or break a promise or contract (still practiced today amongst some yakuza and other gangsters), so the last bit of the promise is literally "our fingers have been cut!" to seal the deal. Also, the term hari senbon, while meaning literally "1,000 needles", is also a regional slang term for a pufferfish, which is covered with 'needles' when inflated. So, they could also be promising to make you drink a puffer fish, which obviously would be painful, followed by a rather nasty death by neurotoxin.
Russian children, too, use a similar pinky finger gesture when promising to be friends and no longer fight. The chant for this occasion can be roughly translated to English as the following: "Make peace, make peace, make peace, and don't fight anymore, and if you fight, I'll bite, and biting is not enough, I'll beat you with a brick... we cannot beat with a brick, we are friends now!"
In Australia (and perhaps elsewhere) there is an understanding that if the pinky swear is broken, the one who broke it has their pinky finger broken in turn.
A common variation is for an adult to make a "pinky promise" to a child as reassurance. Either at the child's request or to show that the adult understands how children feel. May end up as a Heroic Vow. Commonly subverted into a Kick the Dog moment by having the villain use a child's trust in the pinky promise to trick them. Especially cruel villains may even mock the child for their gullibility after revealing their true motives. Unless the power of the pinky promise makes him do a HeelFace Turn.
A cousin to this trope is the Red String of Fate; which is connected by pinky fingers.
See Yubitsume for when a character goes through with it and cuts off their finger.
- Dragon Ball:
Master Roshi: Earth, Water, Sea, Air; I declare a pinky swear!
- Kare Kano, including in the opening song
- Not only that, the opening song is called "Tenshi no Yubikiri", meaning, "An Angel's Pinky-Promise".
- Yu-Gi-Oh! (young Jonouchi and Shizuka).
- Kanon; Yuuichi and Ayu's relationship is marked by several of these. It even becomes a bit of a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment at the end of her route.
- Hatoko and Misaki in Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer make such a promise, cementing each other as The Only One Allowed to Defeat You. When Sai defeats Hatoko later on, they make another promise, that Misaki will beat Sai.
- The teenage girls on the crew in Super Dimension Century Orguss, who are from a parallel universe race with two tentacles in their hair, do this with the tentacles in the first episode, weirding out Kei.
- Cardcaptor Sakura:
- Also used in the last episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, when Sakura and Shaoran vow to keep in touch.
- That's not the only time... It's used in both the anime and the manga multiple times.
- Used straight several times, and later somewhat subverted in School Days; especially when the promise is actually about something very important. Of course, part Makoto being Makoto and part everyone being idiots, he ended up breaking every single one of them.
- Lelouch makes a promise to Nunnally in Code Geass that he will make a better world for her and never lie to her. Tian Zi and Li Xing-ke may have the most epic pinky swear in all of anime, in which Xing-ke promises to use his life, which she saved, for the good of her country that results in Wedding Smashers, a coup d'etat and some Gambit Pile Up.
- Lyrical Nanoha:
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, before she leaves for a one-day conference, Nanoha performs one of these with her adopted daughter, Vivio, saying that she will give her some caramel milk if she promises to wait for her return like a good girl. Unfortunately, Jail attacks their base on that night and takes away Vivio.
- The two of them makes another pinky swear in ViVid, where Nanoha makes Vivio promise not to use her Adult Mode for mischief.
- At the end of A's, when Hayate goes out for a Christmas party, her doctor makes her promise to come back that day after having spent Christmas Eve out of the hospital for the final battle of the season (although her being teleported out wasn't her fault), and they seal it with a pinky swear.
- Shows up near the end of Magical Project S.
- Hijiri and Kazusa do this in Descendants of Darkness.
- Haruhi Suzumiya:
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, Germany and Italy's Pact of Steel is forged with a pinky swear. Slightly subverted by the fact that both of them are grown men... Although Italy is a bit immature. It was Germany's idea, though; it's stated that he got the idea from Japan.
- Love Hina, Mutsumi and Naru pinky swear in volume seven.
- Xxx Holic:
- Anime only: one of Yuuko's customers lands herself into hot water by making promises she can't keep.
- There's also the Pinky Swear between Watanuki and Himawari.
- Manatsu practically forces Ichika into one of these near the end of the first episode of Uta Kata. It also features prominently in the Ending Theme.
- In Saki this is done between Nodoka and Saki to underline Saki's promise that she won't hold back at playing mahjong anymore.
- Takaaki and Miyako from Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z did a pinky swear when they're little so that they will meet again some other time.
- Happened in Monster Rancher.
- In K-On! a flashback told by Ritsu shows her and Mio doing this when they decided that they would one day form a band. Followed by Mio pointing out that it didn't happen quite like that.
- This is done twice between San and Saturn in My Bride is a Mermaid (once as kids and once in the present).
- Betrayal Knows My Name: Tsukumo and Toko do this in episode 10.
- In There, Beyond the Beyond, Futaba attempts this, but Cloud Cuckoolander Kiara sucks on his pinky, instead.
- In Bakuman。, Kazuya Hiramaru makes one with Yuriko "Ko Aoki" Aoki that he will get serialized at the next meeting. Takuro Nakai sees this and is quite horrified.
- THE iDOLM@STER - The Producer to Yukiho (ep 3) and Miki (ep 12).
- Bleach anime episode 247. While Captain Ukitake is trying to recapture his zanpakuto's spirit Sogyo no Kotowari, he promises them that if they give him their weapons he'll play with them as long as they like. They ask him to pinky swear on his promise and he agrees.
- Deadpool short story "The Pinky Swear". Being Deadpool, he takes it very seriously.
- The playground vow in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) is a particularly silly oath:
Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake
Clap your hooves and bake a cake
If I do lie and spill the beans
You can make me eat sardines.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's sister promises her brother not to tell Haruhi Tsuruya kissed Kyon. While Kyon's sister didn't tell Haruhi, she acknowledged it's her fault Haruhi learned that because she slipped when talking with a cousin.
- Beyond Tomorrow: Kikyo does one with Hanyuu to reassure her that she is not prejudiced against half-demons and won't hurt her, even chanting the Japanese pinky rhyme for good measure.
- In Fairy Dance Of Death, Asuna uses this to bond with a traumatized pre-teen girl.
She leaned a little closer, and stage-whispered unnecessarily. "Can you keep a secret? A really big secret?"
"Yubikiri?" Asuna smiled as she held up her pinky finger. Yuuki smiled toothe first time she'd done soand pinky-swore.
- At one point in the infamous Harry Potter fanfic Becoming Female, Dolores Umbridge takes over Hogwarts again and hires a couple Death Eaters as teachers. She assures the student body that Lucius Malfoy did a pinky swear with her to not bring in any more Death Eaters. When he inevitably breaks his promise:
"How COULD you!" Umbridge shrieked. "I thought we had a deal! We did a pinky swear, remember?"
"I had my fingers crossed behind my back," said Lucius smugly.
"Damn the loopholes!" yelled Umbridge.
- The pro wrestling story, One More Time has Molly Holly instigating one with Eddie Guerrero, that he will let the WWE doctors look him over, and she will have another match someday. As the story is a Foregone Conclusion it takes place the night before Eddie's death, it makes for a Downer Ending.
- The Rainbow Connection: It's shown in a flashback that Rainbow Brite and Stormy pinky swore to be friends forever. It was made even more serious by the fact they used their birth names (especially since Stormy hates her original name).
- Support starts with the newly graduated Raven and Chelsea pinky promising to support one another even into adulthood. Eight years later, a homeless Chelsea arrives at Raven's job wondering if her friend remembered the promise, which she did.
- In a The Big Bang Theory short by A.A. Pessimal, Amy and Bernadette realise they've made a bad situation a lot worse. note . A pinky-swear sorts out this little concern.
- In Mortal Man, Patrick tries to make one with Spongebob. He changes it to a "stumpy promise" when Spongebob reminds him that he doesn't have pinkies.
- Used in the live action Casper movie between a father and daughter (it even becomes a Chekhov's Gun: when the former dies, his ghost only remembers the daughter after she hooks her pinky with his).
- A pinky-swear was the only thing that could show the strength of Chris' vow that he didn't know that a gun he gave Gordy to play with in Stand by Me was loaded in the first place.
- In Radio Flyer, the seriousness of promises in a childhood view is underlined with the final pinky promise between adult Mike and his son.
- As with the comic book entry above, used in the Deadpool movie between him and Vanessa. Not explicitly called out, but they are seen linking pinkies.
- Apparently defied in Looney Tunes: Back in Action; when Mother hears DJ knows about the Blue Monkey from his father, she grouses, "What is the point of making them pinky swear?"
- In a flashback from What's Your Number? one was made between a teenage Ally and Jake promising that they'll lose their virginities to one another when they are older.
- Young Antonio's promise to young Jayden in Power Rangers Samurai to train and fight at his side when the Nighloks returned was sealed with one.
- In the Korean drama Mawang, a particular pinky-swear becomes a rather sinister plot twist.
- In the first episode of The Handmaid's Tale, Moira and June pinky-swear that they'll escape and save June's daughter. June throws it in Moira's face when she encounters a defeated Moira at Jezebel's.
- On an episode of Full House, a pinky swear was made between D.J. and Stephanie to eat when it was revealed that D.J. has spent three days crash-dieting.
- MARETU's Vocaloid original "Mind Brand" has "yubikiri genman" in the lyrics. The context suggests the pinky promise is made by a guy to a young girl, whom he has sex with and leaves when she's of no use to him anymore.
- In Ang Huling El Bimbo, Emman makes a pinky promise with Joy, promising to never abandon her, no matter what. He breaks this promise. This causes him to breakdown when she dies and her daughter Ligaya offers one to him.
- Fallout 2 has a variation on the whole pinky-swearing idea. After being asked for help, the PC can ask a minor NPC to cut off his right pinky in order to "seal the deal," presumably to test if he is serious about his promise or not. The NPC may or may not agree to do it. If he does, a good player can stop him before he actually does so, but an evil PC... can then tell him to fry it up and eat it. At that point, the NPC will try to kill you.
- Granblue Fantasy: In her SR version's Fate Episodes, Andira initiates this with the protagonist after taking a bath at a hot springs resort. Such a promise simply has her requesting that they should not forget this calm and memorable moment.
- Crops up in Tales of the Abyss with Luke a few times. Demonstrates his child-like understanding of the world, even when he is insisting that he hates them. Though some of the pinky swears from the past were between Asch and Natalia.
- A major motif between Jin and Tsubaki from BlazBlue, to the point that their "love theme", so to say, is called "pinky promise".
- One piece of promotional art in Ever 17 depicts two of the characters, Coco and Sara, floating in the sea with pinkies clasped. Interesting in that the two of them apparently never interact or even meet in-story until the very end, but have a mysterious connection nonetheless.
- In The Walkingdead Sara asks Clementine to make a one when they first meet which you can decline or accept.
- A song featured in the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series is called Pinky Swear (Yubikiri), about a girl who cuts her pinky off as a promise that her love is real and won't change.
- In Li'l Mell, Mell makes the time-traveling older Sergio pinky swear that they'll be best friends forever, and she seems to expect the younger version to abide by it.
- Jen Breeden from The Devil's Panties has a good reason to refuse a pinky swear.
- Mew and Donut do a pinky swear in Lily Love when Donut helps Mew sneak a hamster into their dorm.
- Happens in this strip from Sinfest.
- Overheard in New York: "She pinky swore she was 18!"
- In W.I.T.C.H., near the end of the season 1 episode "The Mudslugs", Cornelia and Will reconsile their friendship with a pinky swear.
- One episode of Arthur had a bunch of the main characters doing this.
- In Drawn Together, Princess Clara swears two other characters to secrecy with a pinky swear. However, one of them breaks her silence almost instantly (as in, without even leaving the room).
- In The Venture Bros., when Dr. Girlfriend demands that the Monarch stop being Rusty's nemesis if he wants to marry her, the Monarch pinky-swears on it. When that promise is violated by his henchmen he yells "I made a pinky swear! A SACRED pinky swear!!"
- In the American Dad! episode Tearjerker, Stan makes a pinky promise with Johnny Depp that the latter would tell the former if he became a robot.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Pinkie Pie will swear her friends to a "Pinkie Promise", complete with an odd ritual: "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
- Later on lampshaded by Twilight as a pretty odd way of swearing:
Fluttershy: You must swear that you don't tell Rarity!
Twilight Sparkle: I promise.
Fluttershy: Pinkie Pie Swear!
Twilight Sparkle: Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my AAAAAH!
- And you do not want to break a Pinkie Promise. 'Cause if you do, Pinkie Pie will HIJACK you for sure. This was lampshaded in the episode "The Last Roundup".
- In Fish Hooks, in the Halloween special, Oscar would only save Jocktopuss' life if he promises to never steal candy again... but a normal promise wasn't enough.
Jocktopuss: Ugh, Jocktopuss hates you.