HEART in sign language

A drawing of the red heart
Check out the preschooler signing a heart down this page.

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to heart. The language of our thoughts and our emotions is our most valuable asset." -- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).

ASL signs for HEART

What is the sign for "heart" in American Sign Language? Look at two variations.

Definition: a fist-sized muscular organ of the body that pumps to circulate blood through the arteries and veins.

Pronunciation (sign description): Fingertip of dominant middle finger in "open-8" handshape taps twice on the middle of the chest.

Multiple meanings: a muscular organ (variation); something shaped like a heart a Valentine's heart; the center of human emotion; used to refer to a person's character.

Pronunciation (sign description): Fingertips of middle fingers in contact with each other on middle of the chest moves outward apart, upward a bit, and then downward at the same time toward each other where the middle fingers reunite in the shape of a heart.

Context or usage examples: "Which card -- spade, club, diamond, or heart?", "the old lady has a big heart".

Kid signing HEART

Watch the video of ASL-speaking child signing "heart" and how cute when she described the shape of heart.

At age 1;11 in the video, one can see that the handshape is one of the most difficult forms in phonological development in ASL where toddlers don't form the "8" or "open-8" until the middle phase of phonological development. The movement and handshape are abstract.

At age 3;2, the preschooler was able to form the handshape "6" before forming the correct handshape later. So, she used the "6" handshape in HEART. She also used that handshape when waving ILY.

At age 4, one can see that the preschooler or to-be-kindergarten was able to form the correct handshape. But, the control of movement hadn't been developed fully yet.

Each child develops at different pace in any languages. The video gives an overall idea of how language development works in signed language in an full-fledged ASL-speaking environment. Languages regardless of signed or spoken develop at a similar timeline on every level from phonology (parts of words) to syntax (structure and sentence). Linguistics and neuroscience studies show abundant evidence.

Related signs/words

With heavy heart, I was dumped on my last date. Dating is not for the faint of heart. I headed out to go on my next blind date full of HEARTACHE. I was hopeful that this would be true LOVE that makes my HEARTBEAT go through the roof. But as I got to the restaurant my heart sank. My date didn't show, and left me FEELING sad and HEARTBROKEN. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had a HEART ATTACK and were currently en route to the hospital. Or maybe some thief stole their heart and they are now HEARTLESS and cruel. Whatever the case may be, I ate way too many artichoke hearts waiting for them to show up and now I have HEARTBURN. I gave a HALF-HEARTED attempt to ask the server for the check, thanked them from the BOTTOM OF MY HEART. And went back to my life as a lonely, KIND-HEARTED heart surgeon. Oh wait! I went to the wrong restaurant! Whoops! Wow, what a range of EMOTIONS. Seriously, I think we need to have a heart to heart talk.

Food for Thought

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart." -- Helen Keller, deaf-blind American author, advocate.

Printable images ASL printable for HEART ASL printable for HEART variation
Written ASL

[Note: ASL writing is not an official standard. This sign language writing remains in a state of open space to allow room for experiment, evolution, and improvement.]

ASL written for HEART-SHAPED

Written ASL digit for "HEART-SHAPED". Definition: shaped like the conventional representation of a heart. [Digit written by Alexandra Monto-Stein in ASLwrite, 2019]

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