BUTTERFLY in sign language

a drawing of butterfly

A drawing of the butterfly by Juli, age 4;3.


How to sign "butterfly" in American Sign Language (ASL)?

Meaning: An insect with two pairs of large wings that are covered with tiny scales, usually brightly colored, and typically held erect when at rest.

Pronunciation/articulation: Two-handed "15" handshape crossed at the wrists with the thumbs interlocked, fluttering the sets of fingers.

For learner tips, not to confuse this ASL word with other minimal pairs: DRAGONFLY (handshape) and MOTH (palm orientation).

This ASL sign/word can be also signed for BUTTERFLY STROKE in swimming in which both arms are raised out of the water and lifted forward together.

Baby signing "butterfly"

Watch how a child acquires the ASL word, BUTTERFLY in a time-lapse development.

In phonological development, the ASL sign for BUTTERFLY in young children takes much longer time to produce accurately than many other ASL signs because of the complex process involving the thumbs and the crossed arms/wrists of the sign (a similar case with BEAR).

Age 3;5: (Translation) "The butterfly is scared! It flies home."

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 BUTTERFLY

The main component is the handshape, two hands with two thumbs crossed, palmed in. The "x" symbol under the two hands is the cross at the wrists. The double lines outside the hands indicate how the hands move.

ASL digit written and contributed by Todd Hicks in the ASLwrite community, 2017.

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