Is it Rude to Put Elbows on the Table?

We’ve all done it at least once; put our elbows on the table to get better access to our food and leverage with our eating utensils.

But, is it rude? Read on below and discover whether putting your elbows on the table is rude or not.

Is it Rude to Put Elbows on the Table?

Today, putting elbows on the table is considered just as rude as it has been since people first began developing table manners, around the world. 

That said, many people in Western society don’t seem to mind elbows on the table (so long as they don’t bump into the person sitting beside you).

In times of old, putting elbows on the table was seen as a threat. With elbows poised on the table, someone could quickly strike out, or launch themselves up and at a seated target. 

How Rude Is it?

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On a scale of 1 to 10, putting your elbows on the table rates a 5 on the rude meter. Putting elbows on the table rates directly in the middle of the meter because it is either seen as very rude or not rude at all. 

Depending on your company, every person at the table may have their elbows on the table at one point or another during the meal. 

In other settings, you may notice the sharp rise in tension if even none person rests their elbows on the dinner table.

Why is it Rude?

Traditionally speaking, putting elbows on the table has always been seen as rude. 

When you put your elbows on the table, you are taking up more space than normal, perhaps even invading the personal eating space of the person dining beside you.

Further, in days gone by, resting the elbows on the table was seen as a hostile act of aggression.

Why is it Not Rude?

Today, depending on where in the world you are dining, and whom you are dining with, putting your elbows on the table may be no big deal at all. 

For example, in many American States, as well as Eastern Europe countries, if there is room for your elbows, without disturbing the person eating beside you, there isn’t any rudeness perceived.

Common Questions

Why are elbows on the table bad manners?

Elbows on the table have been seen as bad manners for centuries for several reasons. In the beginning, tables were easy to flip over on accident, and putting elbows on the table was the main culprit. Likewise, in recent centuries gone by, resting elbows on the table was a sign of aggression. 

How rude is putting elbows on the table?

Putting your elbows on the table is still seen as classically “bad” or rude table manners. That said, a large amount of Americans and other nationalities have more or less moved on from this sort of thinking. Meaning, they don’t view it as rude so long as there is actually room on the table.

Is it still rude to put elbows on the table, today?

While it is still technically considered rude to put elbows on the table today, it isn’t as much of a serious no-no as it once was. Back in the day, putting your elbows on the table risked turning it over, or was seen as an act of aggression or intended disrespect.