TIME in sign language

ASL written for TIME
ASL writable digit

This word entry contains the ASL signs for "time", a sentence "What time is it?", some time-related phrases, and a link to the "telling time" tutorial.

ASL signs for TIME

How to sign "time" in American Sign Language:

Definition: A point of time as measured in hours and minutes; o'clock.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant clawed forefinger with the tip of the index finger taps twice on top of the non-dominant wrist. Variation: The movement is one time in some contexts.

Usage examples (with double movement): "what time is it?", "Look at time, we're running late".

Usage examples (with one movement): "4 o'clock" (ASL glossed as TIME+FOUR), "first time".

Wh-question: What time?

Q: How would I sign to a Deaf person "Do you have the time? Or tell me the time please?" Would they point to a "wrist watch" they have never worn or is there a sign for checking the time by using the cellphone (since most millennials do not wear wrist watches and have never used them to tell time)?

A: The ASL sign TIME is itself a meaning-based abstract word, regardless of one having a wristwatch or not. The ASL signs for phones (from dialphone to cellphone and smartphone) have changed or expanded, but the ASL word TIME has never been changed.

Sign two ASL words: WHAT + TIME? But, often, Deaf people omit the "WHAT" part that that their fellows understand.

Meaning: What time is it? What time?

Grammar: Remember to furrow eyebrows for the wh-question while signing TIME.


Other meanings related to the word "time" that have different ASL words (signs).

Meaning: As in multiple of a number. E.g. three times four. Or, three times more than.

Q: How would I say "3 or 4 times a year" or any variant of "# times per year"? And, which should I use "3 times" signed by tapping the "3" handshape on the wrist or clicking upward on the non-dominant open palm facing it? Is there a difference?

A: Subtle difference. Sometimes interchangeable, some not. Let's look at some examples with ASL glosses inserted into English sentences for contexts. Of course, one has to translate these English sentences into ASL.

Usage example: She has to pay her tax installments three times [gloss] a year, because if she doesn't, she'd have to pay her taxes triple [gloss] at the end of a year. It's not one time, she has to pay three times every year [gloss].


on time, see PUNCTUAL.

Meaning: at the same time.




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Some word entries have one of some tidbits in this section, such as minimal pairs of sign words, rhymes, etc. usually related to or associated with its word entry.

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 writing for TIME

Writing system: si5s.

ASL for time variation

Variation (ASLwrite) for TIME.

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