What Does Finger on the Pulse Mean?

Finger on the Pulse Meaning

Definition: Having a good understanding of particular happenings.

Origin of Finger on the Pulse

This expression comes from the literal meaning. If a person has his or her finger on one’s pulse, he or she has knowledge of one’s heartbeat.

The figurative meaning applies that same idea to any other area. One could have a finger on the pulse of popular music, political power plays, or even what is happening in one’s own neighborhood.

The idea behind this is that a literal pulse can become more or less rapid, depending on what is going on around the person, and that person’s health. Likewise, the figurative meaning shows that situations change daily, or even from moment to moment. For a person to keep abreast of a particular area, he must monitor it closely.

It is unclear exactly when this idiom originated.

Examples of Finger on the Pulse

define finger on pulseIn this dialogue, two employees are discussing who will be hired to replace their fired boss.

Deanna: I can’t believe our boss got fired for embezzling!

Emily: I know! They’ll have to hire someone to replace her soon.

Deanna: I’m not totally sure, but I think they’re going to ask Mark to take over her position.

Emily: How did you hear that?

Deanna: I can’t tell you exactly. All I can say is that I like to keep my finger on the pulse of office gossip.

finger phrasesIn the second example, two baseball players are discussing their strategy for taking down the other team.

Billy: The opposing team is too good. We’ll never beat them.

Angie: Not with that attitude, we won’t! Listen, I heard that their best player is out sick with the flu, and the rest of the team members are feeling pretty sick as well. If we play our best, we definitely have a chance of winning!

Billy: Wow! You really have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on with the other baseball teams in town!

More Examples

This quote is about a fashion show and how designers know what people want to see on the runway.

  • “Taking yourself too seriously or trying to create something that’s not important or not where we are in the world is when it becomes serious and mundane,” Huffine says. “You gotta keep your finger on the pulse and listen to what people want.” –USA Today

This excerpt is about a high-school graduate who a school plans to honor for his volunteering.

  • “He was a vital link to the high school youth of the community,” Antokal said. “He has his finger on the pulse of what is going on with the high school students. He makes valuable contributions regularly.” –Chicago Tribune


The phrase finger on the pulse refers to keeping a close monitor of changes and developments within a certain area.