TIME in sign language

ASL written for TIME
ASL writable digit

This word entry contains the ASL signs for "time", a sentence "What time is it?", some time-related phrases, and a link to the "telling time" tutorial.

ASL signs for TIME

How to sign "time" in American Sign Language:

Definition: A point of time as measured in hours and minutes; o'clock.

Pronunciation (sign description): Dominant clawed forefinger with the tip of the index finger taps twice on top of the non-dominant wrist. Variation: The movement is one time in some contexts.

Usage examples (with double movement): "what time is it?", "Look at time, we're running late".

Usage examples (with one movement): "4 o'clock" (ASL glossed as TIME+FOUR), "first time".

Wh-question: What time?

Q: How would I sign to a Deaf person "Do you have the time? Or tell me the time please?" Would they point to a "wrist watch" they have never worn or is there a sign for checking the time by using the cellphone (since most millennials do not wear wrist watches and have never used them to tell time)?

A: The ASL sign TIME is itself a meaning-based abstract word, regardless of one having a wristwatch or not. The ASL signs for phones (from dialphone to cellphone and smartphone) have changed or expanded, but the ASL word TIME has never been changed.

Sign two ASL words: WHAT + TIME? But, often, Deaf people omit the "WHAT" part that that their fellows understand.

Meaning: What time is it? What time?

Grammar: Remember to furrow eyebrows for the wh-question while signing TIME.


Other meanings related to the word "time" that have different ASL words (signs).

Meaning: As in multiple of a number. E.g. three times four. Or, three times more than.

Q: How would I say "3 or 4 times a year" or any variant of "# times per year"? And, which should I use "3 times" signed by tapping the "3" handshape on the wrist or clicking upward on the non-dominant open palm facing it? Is there a difference?

A: Subtle difference. Sometimes interchangeable, some not. Let's look at some examples with ASL glosses inserted into English sentences for contexts. Of course, one has to translate these English sentences into ASL.

Usage example: She has to pay her tax installments three times [gloss] a year, because if she doesn't, she'd have to pay her taxes triple [gloss] at the end of a year. It's not one time, she has to pay three times every year [gloss].


on time, see PUNCTUAL.

Meaning: at the same time.




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.