LISTEN in sign language

How do you listen without hearing? Eye! Deaf people listen with eye as hearing people listen with ear.

ASL signs for 'listen'

"How do you sign 'listen' in American Sign Language?" There are two versions of it -- one for the hearing listeners and another for the deaf listeners. The difference of the signs is the location -- one relates to listening via eye and another via ear.

Definition: to give one's attention to a visue; to give attention with the eye; attend closely for the purpose of h-eyeing.

Pronunciation/articulation: Dominant "C" handshape, palm facing left, points toward the dominant ear. You may sometimes see a signer using the "L" handshape with the thumb pointing toward the ear.

[Video contributed by Tad Keller, 2018.]

Definition: to give one's attention to a sound; to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing.

Related words


Antonyms: IGNORE, DISREGARD, DEFY, FLOUT. go in one ear and out the other.


Cartoon by Roy Delgado
Cartoon by Roy Delgado.

Listen typically evokes an association with ear or sound. It's actually more to do with the attitude and attention rather than hearing.

"The problem is not that the (deaf) students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen." -- Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, American civil rights activist, Minister. 1988. This quote refers to the Deaf President Now: a student protest/movement in 1988.

In circa 2001 in an painting class at the university, a hearing instructor looked at my work in progress. He blew out his hands in exasperation with a facial expression as he walked away while speaking to the interpreter who translated to me something like, "Those (hearing) students don't listen and don't follow the instructions right. She is deaf and she follows the right instructions through a third-party information!"

Deaf signers can listen out of peripheral vision, too, that sometimes a hearing person thinks they ignore. For example, while a native-signing Deaf mother was very busy attending to her coda (child of Deaf parent) toddling around, her hearing partner talked in ASL. He was upset, "Hey, why you don't listen?" She sharply replied, "I do! I listened out of peripheral vision."

Baby listening very well

The ASL-speaking baby Juli listened very amazingly. See how deeply she listened with full alertness in the video.

[near future video]

The baby eagerly looked at her mother for the ASL word (sign) and then looked at the picture in the book and back and forth.

The post describes the development of gaze shifting, gaze-following, and gaze-turning, especially the fun gaze turn-taking games with her through mirrors in my documentation.


Get more with the PatronPlus subscription to unlock the premium content and more features, including ad-free for clean and fast page loading. Already a subscriber? Login.

Feeling lucky? Random word

Basic word starters: hello / learn / ASL / sign language / alphabet / love / I love you / please / thank you / welcome...

Search Tips and Pointers

Search/Filter: Enter a keyword in the filter/search box to see a list of available words with the "All" selection. Click on the page number if needed. Click on the blue link to look up the word. For best result, enter a partial word to see variations of the word.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Alphabetical letters: It's useful for 1) a single-letter word (such as A, B, etc.) and 2) very short words (e.g. "to", "he", etc.) to narrow down the words and pages in the list.

For best result, enter a short word in the search box, then select the alphetical letter (and page number if needed), and click on the blue link.

Screenshot of dictionary search with notes
Screenshot of the search dictionary

Don't forget to click "All" back when you search another word with a different initial letter.

If you cannot find (perhaps overlook) a word but you can still see a list of links, then keep looking until the links disappear! Sharpening your eye or maybe refine your alphabetical index skill. :)

Add a Word: This dictionary is not exhaustive; ASL signs are constantly added to the dictionary. If you don't find a word/sign, you can send your request (only if a single link doesn't show in the result).

Videos: The first video may be NOT the answer you're looking for. There are several signs for different meanings, contexts, and/or variations. Browsing all the way down to the next search box is highly recommended.

Video speed: Signing too fast in the videos? See HELP in the footer.

ASL has its own grammar and structure in sentences that works differently from English. For plurals, verb inflections, word order, etc., learn grammar in the "ASL Learn" section. For search in the dictionary, use the present-time verbs and base words. If you look for "said", look up the word "say". Likewise, if you look for an adjective word, try the noun or vice versa. E.g. The ASL signs for French and France are the same. If you look for a plural word, use a singular word.