An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

And Much More!

Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

Sign of the Day - DOCTORAL

All Articles

Keeping Signing Savvy Family Friendly

Site News   |  Thursday, July 9, 2009

By Brian Winn

As of today, we have nearly 6500 words in the Signing Savvy dictionary. We are continuously updating our dictionary of signs. In fact, to date we have added around 100 new signs each month. Our goal is to have the most comprehensive video dictionary of signs on the web.

However, to be a complete dictionary you need to include words and phrases that some may consider mature. We are beginning to include mature words, not only because we want to have a complete dictionary of signs, but also because it is especially important for healthcare workers and patients, social workers, and educators to have access to this vocabulary.

Marking Mature Signs

Terms that may be considered mature are marked as mature in our dictionary. Mature signs are indicated with the graphic below the word. Labeling words and signs as "mature" can be subjective and we do our best to maintain the integrity of the Signing Savvy site and its audience.

Mature Signs for Visitors

If you are a visitor that does not have an account (or you are not logged in) you can search for mature words and the site will indicate that it is in the dictionary but you must be logged in to see the sign. Mature signs do not appear in the browse by letter lists.

Mature Signs for Registered Guests and Members

If you are a registered guest or a member, once you login, you have the option of showing mature signs or not. This can be set as a preference in your account info settings.

When you indicate that you do not want to see mature signs, the mature signs will not show up in the browse by letter list. If you search directly for a mature sign, the site will indicate that it is in the dictionary but you have chosen not to see mature signs.

When you indicate that you do want to see mature signs, the mature signs will show up both in the browse by letter list and when you search directly for them.

You can change your preferences depending on how you are using the site. For example, if you are demoing signs in the classroom, you may choose to not show mature signs. However, you may turn them back on at anytime.


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Baby Reviews Signing Savvy

Site News   |  Monday, June 29, 2009

By John Miller

Recently Signing Savvy served as a "real-world client" for an Apprentice-style project management class at Michigan State University. As part of the project, one group of students created an informative video walkthrough of some of the features of the Signing Savvy website and placed it on YouTube to help promote the site. The video is below.

Isn't Xavier cute!?!? I am sure his baby signing skills will increase rapidly now that he has found Signing Savvy, as well as his dancing. ;-)


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Signing People's Names in Sign Language

Signing People's Names in Sign Language

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, March 28, 2009

By John Miller

Signs for common names?

My name is John, which, as you can guess, is a pretty common name. The benefit of having a common name growing up is that whenever I went into a gift shop that had items with names on them, such as cups, buttons, belts, or what-have-you, I could always find one with my name on it. In sign langage, unlike the items in the gift shop, there is no sign for John. That is, there is no specific sign that can be used for everyone who has the name JOHN (or any other name).

Spelling out the name through fingerspelling

Since there is no common sign for a name, when refering to a person by name, you often just fingerspell it.

JOHN Fingerspelled

You can learn more about fingerspelling and the signed alphabet in the "Fingerspelling/Alphabet" section of the site. You can also have any name (or anything else) fingerspelled on Signing Savvy. Just type the name to be fingerspelled in the search box and click the "Find Signs" button.

searching for names

Since there is likely not going to be a sign for the name, the site will inform you that it was not able to find a sign, however you can have it fingerspelled. In this case, I clicked the "Have JOHN fingerspelled?" link.

search results

The resulting video shows the fingerspelling of my name.

fingerspelled name

If you are searching for a name that has another English meaning, such as "AUTUMN", you will see the sign for the non-name meaning. In this case, you want the fingerspelled version of AUTUMN not the sign for the season of the year. To see the fingerspelled version, just click on the "FS" button to the right of the word to switch to the fingerspelled version.

selecting the fingerspelled version of a sign

Sign names

Fingerspelling your name can seem a bit impersonal, especially among friends. So, members of the Deaf community often give each other sign names. Your sign name is often related to something about you (a characteristic). For example, if you have curly hair, your sign name may be a combination of the first letter of your name and the sign for curly hair. Culturally, it is not appropriate to pick your own sign name and only Deaf people assign sign names. When you first use a sign name in a conversation, you would fingerspell the name and then show the sign name. Once the people know who you are talking about, the sign name makes it easier and more personal to refer to the person during the conversation.

Pointing in space

When you are signing directly to someone, you often just sign YOU (point at him or her) to refer to the person you are talking with and ME (point at yourself) to refer to yourself. When you are talking about someone else who is NOT there, you can use a similar technique, called pointing in space. In this case, you would identify the person by fingerspelling their name (or describing them, such a "my father"), and then pointing at a location in space (usually to the left or right of you.) The first point marks the space that represents the person you named. Afterwhich, when refering to the person in the conversation, you can just point to the location you marked. This is another big time saver when refering to someone many times during a conversation.

pointing in space


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Enhancements to Printing

Site News   |  Tuesday, March 10, 2009

By Brian Winn

New printing features now available

Since the launch, we have been continually improving the sign printing functionality. Today, I am happy to report we have launched our latest printing features for Signing Savvy members. The printing feature now provides you a great amount of flexibility in what you print and how it prints. This includes the ability to select which images you want to print from each sign, the ability to print multiple signs on a page, and the ability to print signs for special purposes, such as flash cards (even two-sided if you have a printer that supports it) and test sheets, in addition to reference sheets.

To print, you must be a Signing Savvy member and you must be logged in. If you are not yet a member, you can test out many of the printing features on the Sign of the Day.

How it works

When you wish to print one or more signs shown in a video, just click the PRINT button located in the playback controls under the video.

where is the print button'

A sidebar will open up to the right of the video that will walk your through the printing process.

print sidebar

Select Images to Print

The first step is to select the images (frames of video) you would like to print for each sign in the video. Initially, the site will show thumbnail images of one to four preselected frames of video for each sign. You can just go with the defaults or you can modify which images to use.

If you wish to modify which images to use, first make sure you are on the sign you wish to modify. Usually the video shows just one sign. However, if you are viewing a phrase from the Savvy Interpreter or a Word List, the video may include multiple signs. To move through the signs available in the video (if there is more than one), you can either click the forward and backward arrows in sidebar by the sign name or you can simply move the playback head to be located within the desired sign.

move between signs

Once you are viewing the thumbnails for the sign you wish to modify, you can remove an image by first clicking on the thumbnail image to selected it, and then clicking the REMOVE button below the thumbnails.

removing frames

You can add a frame by first moving the playback head to the frame of video you wish to add and then clicking the ADD button. Probably the easiest way to move the playback head to is to use the previous frame and next frame buttons.

add frame

NOTE: You can only have four images per sign, so you may have to remove an image before you can add a new one.

If you make a mistake, you can click the DEFAULTS button to return to the DEFAULT frames for the sign.

You can also click SAVE CHANGES to save the changes you made for the sign so the next time you look at it, it will have the same thumbnails preselected for you.

You can continue this process for each sign in the video (if there is more than one.) Once you are ready to move to the next step, click the NEXT button.

Print Options

The second step is to choose your printing options. One of the options is to decide how and if you want to print a sign description. You can choose ON SAME PAGE to print out a reference sheet where the name of the sign is printing with the sign images. You can choose ON SEPARATE PAGE to print out flash cards or self-test sheets where the sign is printed on one page and the sign description is printed on a separate sheet. Or you can choose DO NOT PRINT to print out just the signs with no information on what the sign is. This can be useful for creating a test/quiz.

print options

One option for printing when you choose ON SEPARATE PAGE is the FRONT-TO-BACK checkbox. If you have a printer capable of two-sided printing, check this checkbox. This will make sure that the sign description will line-up properly on the back of the page with the corresponding images on the front. This is very useful for making flash cards. The other print option is to select the number of signs per page. Previously you could only print one sign per page. Now you have the option of printing 1, 4, 6, or 9 signs on a page! Once you are ready to move to the next step, click the NEXT button.

Setup Your Printer

The last step is to make sure your printer is configured properly. The print sidebar will make recommendations to you on how your printer should be setup for printing based on the print options you selected.

print recommendations

Once you click the PRINT button, you will be presented with your computers standard Print Dialog box. You should select the corresponding options in your computer Print Dialog boxes. For example, if you were following the recommendations shown above, you would select the paper orientation as "Portrait," two-sided printing on (if you had a duplex printer), and set the binding method to "long-edge binding" (once again, if you had a duplex printer). You don't have to follow these recommendations. However, your printed signs will look better if you do.

print dialog settings

Aside: Showing Motion

The best way to see the motion of a sign is to view a sign live or via video, such as on the Signing Savvy web site. As described above, Signing Savvy's print feature allows you to select multiple images from a sign to show the motion of the sign. However, sometimes that is not enough. If you have seen printed signs in books or on cards in the past you probably have noticed that they often include arrows overlaid on top of the image to show motion. Perhaps one day we will enhance printing so you can add arrows on top of the images. For now, you can always write them in with a pen or marker after printing!


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First Deaf Contestant on the Amazing Race!

General Interest   |  Saturday, February 28, 2009

By Jillian Winn

A few of us at Signing Savvy are big fans of the Amazing Race. As we watched the first episode two weeks ago, we were excited to see the first-ever deaf contestant to be on the show!

As the Amazing Race participants travel the world, they often encounter language barriers. However, Luke, who has been deaf since birth, and his mother, Margie, felt they might have an advantage over other contestants since they have such strong communication skills with each other. They also commented they could strategize in front of the other teams without them understanding what they are talking about. Luke and Margie use ASL and their own short/fast version of sign language to communicate with each other.

So far, Margie and Luke are off to a great start – Luke did the first roadblock, which was bungee jumping off the Verzasca Dam. At 70-storys, it is the second highest bungee jump in the world. Luke and Margie reached the first pit stop in Stechelberg, Switzerland FIRST! Then Phil (the show’s host) signed, “You (are) team number one!”

Video of Margie and Luke Adams reaching the Pit Stop first and host Phil signing, “You (are) team number one!” (Source: CBS)

ASL Learning Tip:

For those who may be learning ASL, notice when Phil signs, “You are team number one!” that he actually signs the words: YOU TEAM NUMBER ONE. When signing strict ASL, there are often words that are skipped, as is the word “are” in this example. When you use the Savvy Interpreter tool and search for “You are team number one,” the interpreter signs the strict ASL version, without the word “are,” by default.

Video of the Savvy Interpreter tool signing "You (are) team number one." (Source:

About the Savvy Interpreter: The Savvy Interpreter is a tool available to members of Signing Savvy. The Savvy Interpreter links signs together to give you an idea how to sign phrases and sentences. Note, currently the Savvy Interpreter does not translate from English syntax to ASL syntax. It interprets based on the word order you type. Once the interpretation is made, you have the ability to modify the word order to your liking.

More on Luke and Margie on the Amazing Race:

The Amazing Race is Sunday nights at 8pm ET on CBS. We look forward to cheering them on!

Watch Luke and Margie’s Amazing Race Interview:

View Margie and Luke’s biography on the Amazing Race website

Read the MSNBC article by the Associated Press, 1/28/09: Deaf student among ‘Amazing Race’ hopefuls: Luke Adams and his mom one of 11 teams competing for $1 million prize


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