Body Language Vocabulary

Here is a list of body language communication and a free video watch with extra vocabulary. There are many examples of how body language is a form of communication. Body language is used in every country and culture throughout the world.

Why is body language important to understand?

  •  Body language is used to assess people’s characters. It is one of the first ways we assess a stranger’s character.
  • Body language is used to communicate directly with someone when language is not possible.
  • Body language is commonly used and assessed at work and interviews.
  • Body language is an essential part of friendships and relationships.
  • Body language can lead to great misunderstanding between different cultures.

The video tutorial below gives some of the most common examples of body language. More examples are listed under the video.

Body Language Vocabulary: Video Tutorial

A great video to learn some vocabulary for body language communication. A fun video to show that learning vocabulary can be fun!!!

List of Body Language

Below is a list of body language that is common in the west with the common meaning.

Facial Expressions

  • Avoiding eye contact = shy, worried, lying
  • Crinkling nose = disgust
  • Deadpan face (without any expression) = emotionless or hiding feelings
  • Direct eye contact = confidence
  • Eyes staring into the distance = dreamy, not concentrating
  • Pressing lips together (tight lipped) = annoyed, angry
  • Raised eye brows = doubtful, disbelieving
  • Smiling = friendly

Physical Actions

  • Arms behind back, shoulders back = confidence
  • Arms crossed = defensive or insecure but sometimes it means being angry
  • Bowing (bending at the waist) = greeting someone new (in some countries)
  • Biting nails = nervous
  • Blushing (going red in the cheeks) or stammering (speaking with hesitations and repeated letters) = embarrassment
  • Eye rubbing = tired or disbelieving
  • Hands covering gaping mouth = scared
  • Putting arms up with palms facing forward = submission
  • Scratching one’s head = confused
  • Shaking the head = negative, no
  • Shrugging shoulders (moving shoulders up and down) = don’t know, doubt, confused
  • Stroking one’s chin = thinking deeply
  • Nodding head =  agreement, yes
  • Firm handshake = strong and decisive / limp handshake = weak

International Problems with Body Language

Nodding head = In some countries, it means “yes” but in other countries it means “no”. Likewise, a shaking head means “no” in some countries but “yes” in others.

Silence = In the West, this can be negative and be a problem between people. However, in other countries, such as China or Japan, it can be a sign of agreement or femininity.

Personal space = In countries, such as England, people should stand a respectful distance from each other but in other countries, such as Spain, people touch each other when talking. In Japan, the person space is often bigger between people than in England. Respectful space between people changes depending on countries.

Eye Contact = In the West, this is a sign of confidence and is important when listening actively to someone. On the other hand, there are countries where this might be a sign of aggression and confrontation.

Practice Using Body Language Vocabulary

Fill the gaps of these sentences with the suitable words:

1. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then suddenly she asked a question that I couldn’t understand so I just ………….. my shoulders and walked away.

2. My boss always tells tall stories. Yesterday he came to work with another unbelievable story but the only response I could give was to ……….. my eyebrows.

3. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being late. Once I was in a really long meeting at work and by the time we finished I was late to meet my friend. During the meeting, I could feel myself getting impatient and my foot started ……………. on the floor.

4. I can’t stand watching films at the cinema because you can’t relax like you can in private, particularly when watching an action movie full of surprises and shocks. When there is a really sudden unexpected scene, my eyes ………. and my mouth ……… open which I find really embarrassing in public.

5. I remember once I was late for an appointment. When I arrived, which was over 1 hour late, I ………….  deep red and stammered an apology.

  1. shrugged (the answer isn’t “shrugged off” because that means to get rid of – usually a feeling – and does relate to shoulders)
  2. raise
  3. tapping (the answer isn’t stamping because stamping is when you are very angry not impatient)
  4. widen    gapes  (don’t forget the “s”)
  5. blushed

Using vocabulary in IELTS

Q) In what way is body language a form of communication?

A) Well, people use body language to send a message or to indicate something so it is definitely a way to communicate. For example, when people raise their eyebrows, it often means they are incredulous or disbelieving and when they tap their foot on the floor, you know they are impatient. So, using facial expressions and physical actions can communicate things to other people.

Q) Do you think it is possible to misunderstand someone’s body language?

A) Yes, definitely. When someone avoids your eye, it is possible to think that they are avoiding your question and don’t want to talk to you. But really, it might be that they are just shy. So, it’s quite easy to grasp the wrong meaning in people’s actions.

Q) Describe a time you were late for an appointment.

A) I remember, about one month ago, organising to meet someone in the town center at 9pm. Unfortunately, I was delayed because of traffic and didn’t arrive until about 9.30pm. My friend was really mad. She had her arms crossed and was tapping her foot impatiently on the ground. I was so embarrassed and blushed a lot. I stammered my apology but felt really uncomfortable because she was staring at me with angry eyes. Anyway, we sorted out our differences and have been really good friends ever since. (this is an example of part of a talk for speaking part 2 – add details and descriptions)

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, model answers, lessons, free videos and more.


  1. Gurlal singh says


  2. Gurlal singh says


  3. Hi Liz ma’am,

    i am sitting for IELTS General exam on Jan, i had a doubt about task 1..for general ill it be only letter writing?

    please give me some tips for task1 IELTS general.


  4. Muhammad Shahjahan says

    Hello dear Liz, I have been following you since some time. Your video lectures have been very useful. Watching your lectures is enough or I should consult a book as well?
    Looking forward to your reply. Many thanks

  5. Thanks a lot Liz Madam

  6. Hallo Liz
    How can I gather all the vocabulary in this division in one PDF file, so I can print it and read it every where.

    Thanks in Advance

  7. Loveday Mcjolly says

    Hello Liz! I just open your blog and find it interesting…I hope to sit for the IELTS in December, please what are your useful advice concerning the test? Kindly regards. Eket, Nigeria

  8. kasu shira says

    Hii Mam
    I want improve my task 1 can you tell me about how I can improve it

  9. Odefa Obasi says

    Thank you very much Liz. I enjoyed your teachings and I am using them to prepare for my IELTS exam in Lagos, Nigeria. I appreciate your effort.

  10. Dear Mam,
    I am a trainer of ielts,,,but i do not know the tips and tricks to teach students for READING,WRITING TASK 1/2 and LISTENING kindly help me to be a good trainer and guide me with your experience how to start teaching students…
    I will be highly greatful to you if you could guide me
    Thanking you

    • You can find all tips for IELTS on the main pages on the red nav bar. The more you know about IELTS, the better you will be able to train students 🙂

  11. Thank you so much Liz! your blog is amazing!

  12. Hi mam,
    I have a problem in the reading section,as i am not able to skim the passage accurately even trying hard for that if you give me some good tips about skimming the passage would be very useful for my IELTS,because entire reading section is based on skimming the passage.

  13. Hi Mrs. Liz. I would like to speak with you.Do you have Skype address,please.
    With Best Wishes.

  14. mani bhinder says

    this video is awsm

  15. Zainub Bahar says

    Dear Liz,

    I followed all your instructions for all the four modules, I got overall band score 7.5 with following module wise band distribution:

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for the material and the pieces of advices you provided on this blog.

    My target was to score above 7 band each module but I have 6.5 in speaking. Although I was really very satisfied with my performance in speaking but i didn’t get the band score 7 or above. I am planning to retake the test and looking forward to have 7 or above in all modules individually.

    Are there some more tips about speaking? Because I followed all of yours.

    • For speaking, you really need to know where your problem lies. Did you extend your answers in part 1 so that they were not very short? Did you agree extra information to the cue card in part 2? Did you explain your ideas fully with examples and extra information in part 3? Did you use vocabulary that was relevant to the topic? Did you add past tense, future forms, conditionals to your answers to get a better grade in grammar? Think about where your weakness is and work on it. This test is purely based on the language you produced so work on improving it.
      All the best

  16. Hey Liz,

    I want to thank you for your wonderful website! I had the IELTS exam on the 1st of August.I prepared myself for 20 days, around 3 hours a day, only using your website and I succeeded in getting the following bands: 8.5 in Reading, 8.5 in Listening, 7 in Writing and 7 in Speaking (Overall Band 8).

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Band 8! Excellent result in such a short time. Well done! I’m very pleased for you. Thanks for letting me know – it’s good to know my blog is useful 🙂
      All the best

  17. Hello mam,
    Your videos are extremely helpful. I would like to know whether we need to mention both aspects of essay in agree or disagree statement

  18. Hi Liz,
    I have learned in writing academic that each body paragraph has two ideas and support each idea. is it the same in Writing Task 2 ?
    Thank you,

    • I have no idea where you learned this. Each body paragraph should have one central theme with supporting statements. This is clearly written by IELTS in the band score descriptors.
      All the best

  19. Dear Liz can you provide me some more listening exercises other than those already present on your pages. Got to attempt ielts on 12 September third time need at least 6.5 for all L, R, W and S.


    Hi liz
    I ‘m preparing for exam .would u please tell me how much we have to elaborate our answers in speaking part 1 as well as how can we use signpost language

    • Please see the speaking section about answering each part of the speaking test. For signposts, see the linking words for speaking.

  21. plss tell me a good book for ilets in which all modules availiable

  22. Dear Madam,

    How should we improve our bands in Reading and Listening.

    Seeking your valuable advice and thanking you in advance.

    Ramesh Jidiya

  23. Hello liz,you are God sent to this generation and I really want to appreciate you for all your tips,videos and materials…My fiancee used your blog for 2weeks and all her score in each section increased with 1band..Her overall score before was 6.5 and with you as the tutor,she moved to 7.5,just within 2weeks!!!!!!

  24. Hi Liz,

    Thank you for the very useful practices of body language vocabulary.

    My understanding of the meaning for “gap” is an empty space and I’m wondering what the gap means in the 4th question ?

    Thank you in advance

  25. Dear Liz
    Thank you for your comprehensive coverage on body language.
    My study partner for IELTS, who took the test last month, shared me her exam experience where I found some reading questions quite confusing.
    In Reading (T,F,NG),
    Paragraph: The toy was first introduced in 1988.
    Question: the toy was first commercially introduced in 1988.
    Should we answer “False or NG”?

    Paragraph: wood and metal are used to make an equipment A.
    Question: wood and metal are only used to make an equipment A.
    Should we answer “NG”?

    Thank you in advance for your kind explanation.

    • It is not easy to give you answers for this without seeing the full passage and the full paragraph. The context is very important because you are matching meaning (which comes from the general topic and passage) not just words. If the passage is about the business of one company or toy, then the first one is True. Because the “commercial” meaning may have been indicated in the passage as a whole. For the second, again you need to read the full paragraph but this indicates that it might be NG because it does not mention that other materials are not used. Sorry, I can’t be more black and white.
      All the best

  26. Raunak kapoor says

    Hi Liz ,
    i came across your website and prepared myself for 15 day just by watching your videos
    and gave the test and i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart ,its all because of you
    i could score 6.5 in just 15 days of prep time .
    Thankyou soooo much

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