Basic Vocabulary

American Sign Language is full of rich vocabulary. The movements are so expressive, and the way they are signed reflects the emotion and intensity of the action, just like a hearing person would change their vocal inflections.

Many of the signs mimic the actual image of the word, but others are more abstract. The trick is to understand the movement and convey the emotion with facial expressions.

It is important to remember, however, that ASL is not the same as Signed English, in which every word is signed. ASL uses motions and picture storytelling to convey a message. So be careful when looking at vocabulary for your songs; signing each word of the song may not translate well into ASL and could convey an incorrect or awkward message.

Nevertheless, ASL Pro is a great online ASL dictionary to look up words. When searching for a word though, think about its actual meaning first. In English, one word can have several definitions. For example, the word "run" can mean "to walk quickly" or "to manage." So be sure to look for the word that best describes the meaning you want.

Below is a list of vocabulary commonly used in songs. Videos of the signs in each column follow beneath.

  • baby/sweetheart
  • beautiful
  • believe
  • boy
  • car
  • crazy
  • dance
  • day
  • dream
  • everybody
  • exciting
  • eyes
  • family
  • feel
  • forever
  • fun
  • girl
  • gone
  • goodbye
  • happy
  • hate
  • heart
  • heaven
  • hello
  • home
  • kiss
  • know
  • life/live
  • lonely
  • love
  • man
  • me
  • mine
  • miss
  • music
  • no
  • now
  • night
  • please
  • remember
  • sing
  • sleep
  • smile
  • sorry
  • talk
  • thank you
  • think
  • today
  • tonight
  • want
  • war
  • woman
  • wonderful
  • world
  • yes
  • you
  • your