YES in sign language

This word entry contains ASL signs for "yes" and variants, kid signing "yes" from baby to preschool age in real-world contexts, and related links.

ASL sign for YES

ASL signs for YES

How do you say 'yes' in American Sign Language?

Meaning: Used to give a positive answer or reply to a question, request, or offer; used to give an affirmative response.

Pronunciation: Dominant fist or "S" hand bobbing down twice at wrist, resembling a head nodding.

Among native/Deaf signers, as with other ASL signs, there are nuances of meaning for this regular 'yes' sign with just different movements along with intonation (e.g. facial expression).

For beginners, it's good to start with this 'yes' sign.

Variants of affirmative responses

While 'yes' sign is one of some basic vocabulary in everyday conversations, there are different signs or some interjections of affirmative responses that Deaf signers use other than the 'yes' sign above. They are not not something one can use in any contexts. For beginners, observe how they use these in specific contexts in natural conversations.

Semantic variation. Lexicalized fingerspelling / fingerspelled loanword.

Used often with emphasis in specific contexts, excitement (repeated "YES+++"), or such specific tones.

One of some variations for "yep" or "yup".

Related signs: NOPE.


Nodding is is a commonly used interjection, variously used to express agreement, to make an acknowledgment to encourage to continue speaking, or to indicate a lack of interest or enthusiasm. It's generally to say "mm-hmm", "okay", "yeah" or simply a "mm-hmm' cue of active listening.

A common nod means 'yes'. Other kinds of nods can convey subtle different meanings of affirmative expressions from one acknowledging to "I'm listening."

As for the "I'm listening" nods, it's used by a listener to let the talking signer know that the listener is paying attention. If a beginner hearing signer looks plain or frozen, the Deaf signer probably would rephrase, repeat, or begin to sign slower, or ask, "Understand?" Nodding is not the only thing, but fluent Deaf signers use other non-interrupting responses too.

Kid signing "yes" and nodding

The time-lapse video shows how the bilingual ASL-speaking baby acquired the concept of "yes" and used it. How she had evolved from "yes" to nodding. And how she discovered language play with it at the end of video. Can you do the same fun challenge she played?

In the video at age 1;2, the capture of this moment is a good example of peripheral vision of the native-signing mother when the baby produced "yes" while the mother dropped the book on the table. It took a moment for her to realize what the baby uttered. It all happened in milliseconds, just hearing people are able to detect finest movements of sounds in milliseconds.

At around age 1;9, the toddler was introduced to use "yes" in contexts. She also used other ways of expressing, such as "please" and nodding in her own ways.

At age 2;7, the preschooler persuaded her mother to give her several candies. Just four, she thought it was just a few, but it was too many for the mother. She bargained, just one. :D

At age 3;5, she discovered a language play in ASL when she teased her mother "yes at the same time no". Plus, shaking head -- all three in one. :D

Related signs


Opposite: NO with a little hypothetical question posed by nine-year-old bilingual ASL-speaking kid about why the ASL signs "yes" and "no" don't have the same origin of reason. Kids say the darnedest things!

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.