Synonyms…Why do they matter in American Sign Language (ASL)?

One misconception about American Sign Language is the belief that there is a sign for every word. However, unlike the English Language, ASL is based on communication through concepts. One example is the word “car”. There is not a specific sign for “car,” rather, the interpretation of it could include several synonyms or related words, such as “vehicle”, “transportation”, “automobile”, “auto”. Similarly, the sign for “father” could encompass “dad”, “papa”, “pa” and so forth.  Using a video dictionary or one customized for American Sign Language will help you gain a better grasp of this. Yet, do not let yourself get frustrated if you do not find an exact match for the word you wish to communicate. Instead, consider various synonyms that might suffice. This would be a great way to expand your own vocabulary while learning another language! Want to expand it even more? If we are missing something, please feel free to make a word request from our online dictionary.