WORK in sign language

"How do you say 'work' in American Sign Language (ASL)?"

Meaning: a job or activity that you do regularly especially in order to earn money; the place where you do your job; activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.

Pronunciation/articulation: Dominant "S" (handshape), palm down (orientation), dominant wrist taps twice (movement) on the top of the passive or non-dominant "S" handshape.


Word associations: WORKFORCE, WORKAHOLIC

Opposite: PLAY

Kids say the darndest thing

Kids say the darndest thing in sign language. Watch what Juli says in ASL.

Observe a couple of things in the video. At age 3, this child signed left-handed and one-handed while holding a spoon in her right hand, even though she was right-handed. Yet, it was still comprehensible. Perhaps it's an analog to vocally talking while munching.

At this age, children from baby to preschool age may sign comfortably with either hand, but over time, it usually forms into a dominant hand (mostly right-handed).

Another observation is that the child demonstrated a sense of humor! She teased her mother, joking about her father's different job.

Baby signing WORK in ASL

Watch the timelapse video (2015) of how the baby Juli acquires the ASL word WORK on the phonological level from babbling to word (sign) as how her language develops from one word to a sentence in a time lapse.

This baby began with the "5" handshape, one of a few unmarked handshapes. Then quickly evolved to "A" and finally "S", both also other two of the unmarked handshapes.

The baby's concept of work was probably generic in her observation based on these patterns: dad's wearing a firefighter uniform associated with being gone and then back; mom carrying a black workbag being gone and then back.

Psst... did you know that baby Juli's first babbling word was WORK? Not MILK. Nor MOM. Well, that's a long story. :D

Another "did you know that?" Studies show that babbling emerges at about 6-7 months in both speech and signing. Google neuroscientist Dr. Laura Petitto's work.

Another interesting thing is that the dominant condition shows in the baby Juli's WORK-based babbling. It means that one hand moves only as shown in a regular ASL sign, even the sign/word has the same handshape and movement in both hands, except for palm orientation.


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.