LITTLE in sign language

The English word little doesn't fit one translation for all nuances of meanings in American Sign Language. Something small, brief, young, or unimportant can be described as little in English. Use some of ASL synonyms in contexts.

ASL signs for "little"

Here are some possible ASL signs/words. A lot, I know. The best way to learn a signed language is through socializing or interacting with Deaf signers, acquiring the language, and learning over years through contexts and meanings along with culture and history, just like any spoken foreign language. Just a little reminder.

Definition for "little": small in size, amount, or degree.

Pronunciation (sign description): Two flat hands apart in neutral space, palms facing each other, briskly move each other close twice. Sign from SMALL.

Usage/context example: "live in a little cottage", "in a little box", "a little room", "Little Red Riding Hood".

Phonological variation very little used in ASL: Same as above except for the handshape which is "L" -- same orientation of the palms.

Definition for "little": a small amount of; to a small extent.

Pronunciation (sign description): Thumb of dominant European-T handshape in neutral space flicks a couple of times.

Usage/context example: "we got a little help from my brother" [ASL translation glossed as "MY BROTHER HELP-us LITTLE"], "she reminded me a little of my sister", "The old man gave a little smile", "upset a little", "a little better".

Phonological variation (sign description): Same as above, except for one movement.

Usage/context example: "my family has little doubt of our pet's identity".

Also meaning FEW in some contexts or English translations.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant "G" handshape held in space with small motion.

Usage/context example: "stay for a little while".

Learner tip: This sign may have multiple English translations in contexts, such as "small", "tiny", "a little bit", "a bit".

Definition for "little": a short time or distance.

Pronunciation (sign description): Sign from SHORT.

Usage/context example: "the rain stopped after a little" (ASL translation glossed as "RAIN/\ FINISH+STOP, SHORT"), "It'll take a little while to clear up the table".

Definition: young.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant bent hand in right-sided space if right-handed, palm down, moves down a little.

Variation: YOUNG.

Usage/context example: "my little brother/sister", "when you were little, ..." (ASL glossed as /\BEFORE YOU YOUNG/\...).

Learner tip: Be aware of this similar sign for "SHORT" as in short height in other contexts.

Definition: not much or enough.

Pronunciation (sign description): Use ASL words "NOT" + "MUCH".

Examples of English sentences: "have very little money" (ASL glossed as "MONEY/\ NOT HAVE MUCH"), "there's so little choice".

A few of some miscellanies give you an idea of some other contexts or meanings.

"Sometimes little things count the most." Use the "G" handshape as described above, but it's reduplicated for plural in ASL.

"Can I have a little word with you?" "A little word" means a short discussion about something not very important. It can be expressed in ASL glossed as "SHORT TALK(var) NO-BIGGIE".


little by little meaning: slowly or gradually; by tiny increments.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant horizontal "G", palm facing outward, reduplicate a few times, with intonation.

Also other variations, depending on the contexts or meanings.



Opposite: BIG, LARGE, LONG...

First 100 words.

  1. again
  2. also
  3. ask
  4. bad
  5. boy
  6. but
  7. can
  8. come
  9. deaf
  10. different
  11. drink
  12. drive
  13. eat
  14. email
  15. excuse
  16. family
  17. feel
  18. few
  19. find
  20. fine
  21. fingerspell
  22. finish
  23. food
  24. for
  25. forget
  26. friend
  27. get
  28. girl
  29. give
  30. go
  31. good
  32. have, has, had
  33. he
  34. hearing
  35. hello
  36. help
  37. home
  38. how
  39. Internet
  40. know
  41. later
  42. like (feeling)
  43. little
  44. live
  45. man
  46. many
  47. me
  48. meet
  49. more
  50. my
  51. name
  52. need
  53. new
  54. no
  55. not
  56. now
  57. ok, okay
  58. old
  59. other
  60. please
  61. remember
  62. same
  63. say
  64. school
  65. see
  66. she
  67. should
  68. sign, signed word
  69. slow
  70. some
  71. sorry
  72. store
  73. take
  74. tell
  75. text, sms
  76. thank, thank you
  77. their
  78. they
  79. think
  80. time
  81. tired
  82. try
  83. understand
  84. use
  85. wait
  86. want
  87. what
  88. when
  89. where
  90. which
  91. who
  92. why
  93. will
  94. with
  95. woman
  96. work
  97. write
  98. yes
  99. you
  100. your

As you feel more comfortable with the first few hundreds of ASL signs, progress further with your vocabulary and learn signing more.