How to Say Hello in American Sign Language

When it comes to communication, language plays a vital role in human interaction. American Sign Language (ASL) is a beautiful and expressive language used by the Deaf community in the United States. Whether you want to greet a Deaf friend, learn a new skill, or simply expand your knowledge, knowing how to say hello in ASL is a fantastic way to connect with others. In this guide, we will cover formal and informal ways to greet someone in ASL, providing you with tips, examples, and regional variations where applicable.

Formal Greetings

Formal greetings are typically used in professional settings, when meeting someone for the first time, or in more formal social situations. Here are a few common formal ways to say hello in ASL:

1. Handshake Greeting

This greeting is similar to shaking hands in spoken language. To perform it, follow these steps:

  1. Extend your right hand, palm facing down, toward the person.
  2. Make firm but gentle contact with the other person’s right hand.
  3. Gently shake your hands up and down once or twice.
  4. Maintain eye contact and offer a warm smile.

In ASL, this gesture symbolizes respect, professionalism, and acknowledgment.

2. Bowed Greeting

The bowed greeting is a polite and respectful way to say hello. Follow these steps to perform the bowed greeting:

  1. Place your right hand on your chest, with the palm facing inward.
  2. Lower your head slightly, leaning forward.
  3. Make eye contact with the person as you offer a friendly smile.

This gesture is a non-verbal way to show respect and greet someone with formality.

3. Formal Greeting with an ASL Phrase

Using a formal ASL phrase along with a polite gesture can also be an excellent way to show respect when greeting someone. One example of a formal ASL phrase is:

“Nice to meet you.”

While signing this phrase, maintain eye contact, and offer a gentle smile. Remember, in ASL, facial expressions and body language play a significant role in communication.

Informal Greetings

Informal greetings are used among friends, family, or in casual social situations. These greetings are more relaxed and often involve a sense of familiarity. Here are a few common informal ways to say hello in ASL:

1. Waving Greeting

Waving is a common and universal gesture for greeting someone casually. To wave hello in ASL, follow these steps:

  1. Extend your dominant hand in front of you.
  2. Keep your fingers together and your palm facing outward.
  3. Moving your hand side to side, create a small wave gesture.
  4. Accompany the wave with a friendly smile and eye contact.

This simple yet effective greeting is perfect for casual encounters or when you want to say hello from a distance.

2. High-Five Greeting

If you have a closer relationship with the person you are greeting, an ASL high-five can add some fun and excitement. Here’s how to perform it:

  1. Extend your dominant hand toward the other person, keeping your fingers splayed open.
  2. Contact the other person’s open hand with some force, creating a smacking sound.
  3. Accompany the high-five with a smile and maintain eye contact.

This informal greeting allows you to express joy, enthusiasm, and camaraderie.

3. Informal Greeting with an ASL Phrase

Using a casual ASL phrase while making appropriate facial expressions adds a personal touch to informal greetings. Here’s an example of an informal ASL phrase:

“Hey, what’s up?”

To sign this phrase, raise your eyebrows slightly, tilt your head, and use a friendly tone of voice. This combination reinforces a relaxed and informal greeting.

Regional Variations

While ASL is prevalent throughout the United States, regional variations in sign language do exist. These variations may include different signs or dialects. However, the core greetings remain relatively consistent. To ensure effective communication, it is essential to remain open and adaptable. If you encounter a regional variation, encourage the person to teach you their preferred way of saying hello.


Learning how to say hello in ASL opens the door to a vibrant and inclusive community. Whether you choose to greet someone formally or informally, the key is to show respect and genuine interest in connecting. Remember to maintain eye contact, use appropriate facial expressions, and be open to regional variations. By embracing ASL, you can foster meaningful relationships, bridge communication barriers, and celebrate the diversity of human expression.

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