SORRY in Sign Language

This entry contains the signs for "sorry", funny story-based related words, and kid signing 'sorry' in language development.

ASL sign for SORRY
Printable for "sorry" video below

"Sorry" in ASL

How do you say "sorry" in American Sign Language?

Definition: Feeling or expressing regret.

Pronunciation (production): dominant "A" hand (handshape) with its palm (orientation) in contact with the chest (location) moves in a circular motion clockwise twice on the chest (movement). The position of thumb may be loose.

A number of hearing bloggers online and offline alike instructed the sign with the fist which is incorrect. Don't sign "sorry" with the "fist" handshape.

Similar sign for: APOLOGY.

Different inflections of the movement convey a gradient of meanings, such as "very sorry", "truly sorry", "so so so sorry!", and on. They are examples of inflections, not variations.

Related signs

The barista took forever to make the busy business woman's coffee. The barista APOLOGIZED for the delay as she handed the lady her drink. The woman hurried outside and flung the door open right into a construction worker's face. She yelled SORRY over her shoulder as the construction worker stumbled backwards into some scaffolding. She felt GUILTY as she got in her cab and sped away, just in time to see the scaffolding collapse into traffic. The construction crew REGRETFULLY informed the Mayor that that street would need to be shut down. The Mayor, however, couldn't afford such a LOSS during his re-election campaign. He was CONCERNED that this would lose votes which made him SAD. He called in a favor and hired a clean-up crew. The crew came in led by the very same woman in a rush to get her coffee. She showed no REMORSE, it’s almost as if it was all part of an elaborate plot.

More synonyms: PENITENT, RUEFUL, SORROWFUL.

Learn other common everyday ASL signs you can use: PLEASE, excuse me, HELP, HELLO, THANK YOU.

Kids signing "sorry"

Research says that toddlers don't really understand the word 'sorry' but they do understand and imitate behaviors. At the stage of ages 4-6, children develop their understanding of what apology is.

The concept may be difficult for toddlers, yet the ASL sign is not hard to produce as early as in natural language development with help the unmarked handshape. Note that they are not "baby signs" nor it's "baby sign language" which is cultural appropriation. ASL-speaking children acquire a signed language from babbling to syntax in the similar timeline as that of spoken language.

Watch how the bilingual ASL-speaking baby acquires the ASL word "sorry" from age 1 to 3.

At age 1;4, the baby Juli apparently remembered something and suddenly uttered "sorry" in ASL. Out of context, the mother wasn't sure what it was referred to. The baby pointed to the area where some situation might have occurred earlier.

At age 1;7, the toddler made an apology to the bug (probably for hurting it). At age 1;9, when the mother pulled her away from the decorative gate and signed "no", the toddler signed "sorry". At age 2;0, thinking about something with her stuffed poodle, she signed it on the stuffed toy's torso, not on her chest, before with a smirk, she threw the toy. At age 2;4, after a tension between her and the cat, she came to apologize to the cat.

At 3;3 (video not included), the preschooler walked around in the kitchen with a guilty grin and confessed in ASL (translated as), "I spilled, oops! I'm sorry" with an intonation (facial expression). But, she grinned and move on. At another time (video) at this age, she uttered "I want to tell sorry." Her mom asked, "Sorry for what?" The little kid replied, "For.. sorry for [stomping]". I think there was a bug.

Concurrently during this similar time frame from age 1;3 to preschool age, she also acquired and used another vocabulary PLEASE.

First 100 words.

  1. again
  2. also
  3. ask
  4. because
  5. boy
  6. but
  7. can
  8. come
  9. condone
  10. deaf
  11. different
  12. drink
  13. drive
  14. eat
  15. email
  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
  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.