L in sign language

Just like sign languages, there are different manual alphabets throughout the world.

Letter L in ASL alphabet

How do you sign the letter L in American Sign Language?

Definition: The 12th letter of the alphabet in English and American manual alphabet, a consonant.

Pronunciation (sign description): With the palm facing outward, the last three fingers (middle finger, ring finger, and pinky) are down on the palm, while the index finger is upright and the thumb is open or extended.


When fingerspelling a double letter of L in words or names, use the bounce method.

For beginners, remember not to bounce every letter when fingerspelling with the exception of some double letters.

Baby signing L

The handshape L looks as easy as the handshape "1", but it's deceptive as much as the sound L. If we look at the language development (specifically, phonological acquisition) of an ASL-speaking baby, thumb is not easy to manipulate in sign language, just like hearing children don't produce the "L" sound until age 3 and master it by age 6.

Just like it took a long time for a child to make the "L" sound, the thumb in sign language takes a long while to develop. Children develop at different pace but time frames in milestones are consistent.

In a case study of baby Juli in my documentation, the index finger first emerged in the ASL word, COOKIE (handshape error) at about 12 months. Then, it emerged more in ASL words at age 15-16 months, such as CRY and HURT with the correct "1" handshape and few other signs with the handshape error (i.e. "1" handshape in replacement of other handshapes such as PINEAPPLE and COMB). The handshapes U, V, and R emerged at 2;1 months, L still not yet. After several other handshapes, the handshape L emerged at 2;10 months and mastered it later.

While English and ASL have their own unrelated, independent number of sounds and primes respectively, the charts of 40-44 speech sounds and 50+ handshape primes are somehow in similar parallel in language development (e.g. about 4-5 during the first 2 years toward completing the whole chart by age 7-8) in both signed and spoken languages, even though they are different in modalities, units of language, and languages. It's probably all the brain.

Sign language is not easier than speech language. "Baby sign language" is a harmful cultural appropriation with misleading perceptions.

Vocabulary booster activity

List as many ASL words as you can with the "L" handshape and "clawed L" on the dominant hand regardless of one-handed or two-handed signs? You can make two separate lists for these two family handshapes.

Possible answers

For "L" handshape: LAW/LEGAL, DRILL, LUNCH (old variation), ...

For "clawed-L" handshape: WHO, RUN, GUN, DEVIL, ...

Other manual alphabets

This image illustrates the letter L in the two-handed British manual alphabet that is used in British Sign Language (BSL), Australian Sign Language (Auslan), and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL).

Letter L in BSL
Letter L in BSL

For the letter L in British Sign Language, the index finger of the dominant palm-down hand rests on the non-dominant palm-up flat hand.

The one-handed manual alphabet used in American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language (FSL) is similar with minor differences. Because, Old ASL is descended from Old French Sign Language (Old LSF), even though, both modern languages naturally developed by Deaf people are different.

Related letters and words

Previous letter: K and next letter M.


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.]

How to write ASL for letter L

Written ASL digit for the alphabetical letter L. [Contributed by ASLwrite, 2019]

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.