E in sign language

As there are different sign language alphabets throughout the world, here is the letter E used in American Sign Language.

E in ASL alphabet

Definition: The fifth letter of the English alphabet and American manual alphabet, a vowel.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant hand is held in space where its palm faces out. The thumb is bent on the palm and the fingers curl down into the palm where their fingertips are in contact with the side of the thumb. Sometimes, few signers and learners form "E" with the gap between the fingertips and the thumb, which is not conventional but it can happen.


When fingerspelling the double letter of E, use the sideways method. For example, when fingerspelling "fs-PEET", the handshape slides sideways slightly like P-EE-T. Fingerspelling P-E-E-T works too for this word. Same for BEET. But, the sideways might be a teeny bit awkward in BEETLE that the repeated E senses better. Just like some sound units work in one area but not in another area (co-articulation).

But, when fingerspelling fs-PEE, the sideways approach works only better. Likewise for BEE.

Vocabulary booster activity

For mid-beginners and above, can you think of many ASL sign with the "E" handshape as possible?

Not-big-secret answers

No longer a secret. Here it is: EASTER, letter E (students tend to come up with this when it comes to scarcity of possible words :) ), ETHIOPIA (variation), ...

No, personal name signs are not counted.

The "E" handshape is not much used in ASL words, as I'd say it's one of the very marked handshapes along with the letter M. What this means is that these types of marked handshapes are not very natural in ASL sign language. They just represent the alphabetical letters used for fingerspelling spoken/written words of spoken of spoken language.

Baby signing E

As the thumb takes time to develop (proximalization), babies can manipulate objects with the fingers and thumb, but when it comes to manipulating a (signed) language using the thumb, it's a different story.

In my documentation on the language development (specifically phonological acquisition) of a case study of my baby Juli, it shows the handshape "4" which emerged in ASL number "four" at age 2;6. Since the handshape "4" and the handshape "E" are somehow in the phonological family, I'd say. Except that the handshape E takes one step further which involves bending the knuckles. The handshape "E" emerged at age 2;10 as found in EASTER and fingerspelled FERRET.

E in ASL writing

Unofficial written ASL digit for the alphabetical letter E. There may be a variant to this.

How to write ASL for letter E
Experimental ASL writing

[Contributed by ASLwrite, 2019]

Other manual alphabets

While signed languages are different around the world, some share the similar manual alphabets, some completely different. Here is the letter E in the British manual alphabet. It is used in British Sign Language (BSL), New Zealand Sign Language in New Zealand, and Australian Sign Language (Auslan) in Australia. BSL is the the language of Deaf people in the U.K.

E in BSL alphabet
E in British manual alphabet

Description: Dominant index finger points to the upper finger of the palm-up non-dominant hand.

ASL in North America is a descendant of Old French Sign Language (Old LSF) in France; though, today LSF and modern ASL are distinct that is incomprehensible to foreign deaf signers.

Related links

Previous letter: D and next letter F.


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