C in sign language

Sign language alphabets around the world are not the same.

C in ASL alphabet

For the letter C in American Sign Language (ASL), it's used for fingerspelling spoken/written words as foreign or borrowed words, such as brand names, personal names, and others that have no ASL signs.

Definition: The third letter of the alphabet in English and in American manual alphabet, a consonant.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant, curled flat hand with the curved thumb and with the palm facing left if right-handed. If your dominant hand were in the form of claw, close the fingers together with the thumb extended. The fingers and the thumb are curled into the handshape C. If your whole hand were in the form of "O" with the fingertips in contact, then disconnect the tips of your thumb and fingers to form "C".


When fingerspelling the double letter C, use the bounce method. Examples of the double letter C are fs-MECCA, fs-REBECCA, etc.

Remember, never bounce every letter when fingerspelling in general, except for some double letters. Deaf people don't bounce in fingerspelling. Beginners bounce in fingerspelling which is very common.

Baby signing C

ASL-speaking babies can form the unmarked handshapes such as the first "5" handshape that emerge in cooing, babbling, and first words, "baby O" that emerge at about 13 months and then "O" at about 14 months.

Unlike these unmarked handshapes, the handshape C, which looks like easy to naive eyes, is actually not as easy as the other early handshapes. Toddler may start with the "5" handshape for the letter C, then clawed "5" before "C" is formed.

In my documentation of the language development (phonological acquisition) of baby Juli, the handshape "C" was formed well in ASL word "ball" at 19-20 months. Previously, she used open or flat hands. During that emergence, the production of "boy" was well-formed, as they share the similar handshape. When fingerspelling ABCs by age 3, it's well-formed.

Vocabulary booster activity game

List as many ASL words that start with the dominant-handed handshape C as you can before you take a peer some possible words below.


Now try a list of words that start with the dominant-handed "claw-C" handshape.


Foreign manual alphabets

British Sign Language (BSL) is used by Deaf people in the U.K. and it uses the two-handed British manual alphabet.

C in BSL alphabet
C in BSL

In the BSL alphabet, all letters are two-handed, except for letter C. It's the only one-handed in the BSL alphabet.

Unlike the American manual letter C, the BSL letter is formed with the curled forefinger and curved thumb while the rest of the fingers (middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie) are closed. It's called "baby C" in ASL glosses.

Related letters

Previous letter: B and next letter D.


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.]

How to write ASL for letter C

Written ASL digit for the alphabetical letter C. [Contributed by ASLwrite, 2019]

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