Etymologies and Origins

In many cases, signs for related words or concepts are very similar, having developed out of one root sign. The resulting signs are more specific, and often belong to a particular subcategory of language, such as the many religious signs listed below.

Sign
daughter wife sister pollution ministry minister Passover Gospel testament holy, hallowed divine righteous pure sanctify sacrifice repent reason theory fiction/fantasy usually/used to tradition organization department society

Root Sign(s)
girl + baby girl + marry girl + same smell + mix work lecture cracker news commandment clean clean clean clean clean offer change think imagination imagination habit habit group group group

Changes
----+ initial m* + initial f (for friar) + initial p + initial g (for good) + initial t preceded by h ** preceded by d preceded by r preceded by p preceded by s preceded by s + initial r + initial r + initial t + initial f + initial u + initial t + initial o + initial d + initial s

team association principal business duty function environment circumstance free deliver liberty independent communicate dialogue interview interpret translate constitution rules/regulations principles/parliamentary will (legal) board senate congress legislature

group group over work work work situation situation save save save save conversation/talk conversation/talk conversation/talk change change law law law law member member member member

+ initial t + initial a + initial p + initial b + initial d + initial f + initial e + initial c + initial f + initial d + initial l + initial i + initial c + initial d + initial i + initial i + initial t + initial c + initial r + initial p + initial w + initial b + initial s + initial c + initial l

While some signs may seem somewhat arbitrary, many ASL signs have interesting origins and histories. The following examples are religious signs with interesting historical origins:

Meaning
Catholic Baptist

Description of Sign
indicate cross on forehead move "a" hands right and down

Origin
Catholic practice of crossing one’s self mimics motion of baptism by immersion

Episcopal Methodist Quaker church Passover priest nun Jesus

indicate arc from underside of wrist to elbow rub palms together

represents flowing sleeve of Episcopal robes religious fervor of early Methodists

with hands clasped, thumbs rotate Quaker practice of twiddling one’s thumb around each other while waiting for the Spirit "c" rests on back of "s" hand strike "p" near elbow ("cracker" + initial p) "g" hand traces around side of neck "n" hand traces upper face touch right middle fingertip to left palm, reverse church built upon a rock unleavened bread at Passover represents priestly collar indicates shape of nun’s veil indicates nail holes from crucifixion

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful