Sign language alphabet

Sign language alphabet – ASL fingerspelling: ABC’s

When you are learning American Sign Language, also known as ASL, one of the first things that you have to work with is the ASL alphabet. The modern alphabet used by ASL is derived from a Spanish manual alphabet that dates back more than a hundred years. The alphabet employed in ASL is a system where each letter has a corresponding hand position. This is meant to augment ASL and the fact that some words do not have signs. In some cases, as with names, signs are derived from a manual alphabet. In this case, it can be seen that the letters of the alphabet can help form independent words, marking ASL as a continually evolving language.

free printable sign language alphabet

ASL alphabet cheat sheet

Although it is helpful to have an ASL alphabet cheat sheet hanging on the wall or sitting on your phone, it’s even better to see it in action. Especially when you are completely new to it. In the video below, you can see how the hand shape is changing from a natural position to a letter hand shape. In the table at the end of this page, we describe each sign in words,

Start by spelling your own name and your family members’ names.
Download the sign language alphabet poster and watch the sign language alphabet video below.

How to hold your hand when signing the alphabet

If you are interested in fingerspelling, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. The first is that you should do this with your dominant hand, not switching from one to the other, and your hand should be positioned near your shoulder, with your elbow bent. Your hand should remain in place, with no bouncing occurring unless the letter is doubled, like the T in “kitty” or the R in “ferry.” Keeping good form while you are fingerspelling makes it easier for those watching to clearly understand what it is you are saying.

When working with the ASL alphabet, remember that your hand should always be facing ahead. Some charts that illustrate the letters will rotate the hand to display the position more clearly, but in practice, the palm, no matter what shape it is making, should always face toward the viewer. The exceptions are the letters G and H, which are made with the palm facing sideways. Similarly, when signing the cardinal numbers, 1-5 should be shown with the palm facing out, but 6-9 are shown with the palm facing in.

Here’s a table with the letters A-Z and a description of the handshape used in ASL:

LetterHandshape Description
A in Sign Language (ASL)with the index finger extended upward
B in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle finger extended, held apart by thumb
C in Sign Language (ASL)with the thumb wrapped over the fingers, as if holding a cup
D in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle fingers extended and held together
E in Sign Language (ASL)with all fingers extended and held together
F in Sign Language (ASL)with the thumb extended between the index and middle finger
G in Sign Language (ASL)with a little finger extended, other fingers curled in
H in Sign Language (ASL)with all fingers extended except the thumb, which is held between the index and middle finger
I in Sign Language (ASL)with the index finger extended
J in Sign Language (ASL)with the little finger, ring finger, and middle finger extended, index finger curled in, thumb held against the side of the hand
K in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle finger extended, held apart by thumb, other fingers curled in
L in Sign Language (ASL)with the thumb extended upward, the index finger pointed forward
M in Sign Language (ASL)with the thumb extended, index and middle fingers extended and touching at the tips, other fingers curled in
N in Sign Language (ASL)with thumb extended, index and middle finger extended and touching at the tips
O in Sign Language (ASL)Circle made with thumb and index finger
P in Sign Language (ASL)with the index finger and little finger extended, held apart by the thumb
Q in Sign Language (ASL)Circle made with thumb and index finger, with a little finger extended
R in Sign Language (ASL)with index, middle, and ring fingers extended, other fingers curled in
S in Sign Language (ASL)with all fingers extended and held together, thumb held against the side of the hand
T in Sign Language (ASL)with index finger extended, other fingers curled in
U in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle fingers extended and touching at the tips, other fingers curled in
V in Sign Language (ASL)Fist with index, middle and ring fingers extended and held together, other fingers curled in
W in Sign Language (ASL)with index, middle, and ring fingers extended, thumb and little finger extended and held apart
X in Sign Language (ASL)with index and little finger extended, other fingers curled in
Y in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle fingers extended and touching at the tips, thumb extended and held apart, other fingers curled in
Z in Sign Language (ASL)with index and middle fingers extended, held together, other fingers curled in

Download the free American Sign Language (ASL) fingerspelling poster (PDF format, U.S. paper size 2,4mb)

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Aplphabet placemet

Practice ASL while eating lunch? Check out this product on Amazon fun, easy to clean, and durable placemet for a great price.

Learn your ASL ABCs with this fun kids song

Okay, so now you know the sign language alphabet. Great!

Now it’s time to learn some animal words.

An even more fun way of learning ASL is by playing around with the iOS or Android app. It has a build in free Sign Language Alphabet section.