How Many Fingerprints Are There?

Fingerprints are often used as a form of identification because no two people have the same fingerprints. But just how many different types of fingerprints are there? The answer may surprise you.


What are fingerprints?

A fingerprint is an impression left by the friction ridges of a human finger. The pattern of ridges on the inner surface of a finger is unique, and it is this uniqueness that makes fingerprints useful for identification purposes. Friction ridges are raised areas of skin that are covered with tiny beads of sweat. They occur on the palmar surfaces of the fingers and thumbs, on the tips of the toes, and on the soles of the feet. The patterns of ridges on these surfaces form what is known as friction ridge patterns.


How Many Fingerprints Are There?

Well, every fingerprint is unique, so really there are an unlimited number of fingerprint possibilities, since no two are exactly the same. However, there are 3 main types, with 5 sub-types.


The 3 Major Types of Fingerprints

There are three major types of fingerprints: arch, loop, and whorl. The arch fingerprint pattern has ridges that enter from one side, rise in the middle, and exit from the other side. The loop pattern has ridges that enter from one side, make a curve, and then exit from the same side. The whorl pattern has ridges that form a spiral or concentric circles.


8 Most Common Fingerprint Patterns

As mentioned above, there are three main fingerprint parent types, with specific fingerprint pattern subcategorizations:

  • Arch
    • Plain arch
    • Tented arch
  • Loop
    • Radial loop
    • Ulnar loop
  • Whorl
    • Plain whorl
    • Central pocket loop
    • Double loop
    • Accidental whorl

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