A sign is conceptually a word in sign language. But, the English word "sign" is often problematic where it has widely multiple meanings while the term "word" is language-specific. Unfortunately, the term "sign" is kind of a poor word for the concept of "word". The ASL sign/word "[see video]" is language-specific, meaning a "signed word" or "sign as in word".

Meaning: a word in a signed language; signing; a visual-spatial modality of language.

Usage: This sign is kind of more likely used for a (signed) word. E.g. What's the sign for [word].

This sign is also used in contexts of "signing" as in talking.

With some inflections, this sign can change nuances of meanings. For example, modifying this sign shows that a hearing person knows some sign language. E.g. "IX CAN SIGN-inflected." Or, inflecting the sign can also indicate a signing level of learners.

This sign has been used as far back as 1913! And likely long before! See the 1913 video clip far below (under the Deaf Culture tidbits).

Variation (typically referred to native and fluent signers).

Usage: This sign is ideally used as in "What's she/he singing?" or glossed as IX SIGN WHAT? when one misses capturing what the signer say (sign). Or, "I don't understand them signing". Proper usage can be subtle in contexts that are not easy to describe in short.

Related signs: WORD, sign language, LANGUAGE, SPEAK.


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Deaf Culture and tidbits


The signed word (sign) has been used the same as far back as 1913! And likely long before 1913.

Video clip source: "The Preservation of Sign Language" (1913) video by George W. Veditz (1861-1937), then-President of the NAD (National Association of the Deaf). Gallaudet Archive and Library of Congress.

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.