How to Say “Look” in American Sign Language (ASL)

In American Sign Language (ASL), the term “look” is commonly used to direct someone’s attention toward a specific person or object. This guide will provide you with various ways to express “look” in ASL, both formally and informally. While ASL is a visually-driven language, it’s essential to remember that sign language is not universal and regional variations may exist. However, we will primarily focus on the widely used signs for “look” in ASL.

Formal Ways to Say “Look” in ASL

When using ASL in a formal setting, it’s important to use signs that align with standard conventions. Here are some formal signs for expressing “look” in ASL:

1. Gaze/Focus

The sign for “gaze” or “focus” in ASL involves directing your eyes and attention toward a specific point. To convey this, follow these steps:

  1. Extend your index finger and point it forward.
  2. Hold your arm at approximately eye level.
  3. Move your extended index finger to direct your attention toward the intended person or object.

Remember to maintain eye contact during this sign, as it conveys attentiveness and respect.

2. Observe

When you want someone to “observe” or “look” at something, you can use the following sign:

  1. Hold one hand, with the palm facing down, slightly away from your body.
  2. Bring your eyes and attention toward the intended subject while maintaining a straight wrist.
  3. Move your hand slightly forward as if extending your focus.

This sign emphasizes paying careful attention to a specific person or object.

Informal Ways to Say “Look” in ASL

Informal settings often allow for more relaxed and expressive signs. Here are some informal signs for saying “look” in ASL:

1. Check out

To casually tell someone to “check out” or “take a look” at something, you can use this sign:

  1. Extend your index finger and hook it towards yourself.
  2. Move your hooked finger from one side of your body to the other while keeping it slightly bent.
  3. Direct your eyes and attention toward the intended person or object.

This sign is commonly used among friends and family in relaxed settings.

2. Peek/Look quickly

If you want to convey the idea of quickly peeking or taking a brief look at something, use the following sign:

  1. Hold your flattened hand with the palm facing your ear.
  2. Move your hand forward, bringing it close to your face.
  3. Open and close your hand quickly, simulating the act of “peeking” or “taking a quick look.”

This sign indicates a less formal way of asking someone to look at something momentarily.

Tips for Using “Look” in ASL

Here are some general tips to enhance your understanding and usage of “look” in ASL:

1. Maintain Eye Contact

When using ASL, maintaining eye contact is crucial. It shows respect and engagement with the person you’re communicating with. Directing your gaze towards the person or object you want them to look at is also essential.

2. Facial Expressions

Incorporating appropriate facial expressions helps convey the importance or urgency of the intended request. Non-verbal cues, including raised eyebrows or widened eyes, can enhance the meaning behind your signs.

3. Adapt to Cultural Differences

While ASL is widely used throughout the United States, keep in mind that regional variations may exist. If you encounter a different sign for “look,” respect and learn from the local Deaf community to broaden your knowledge and understanding of ASL.

Tip: Familiarize yourself with Deaf culture and engage with the community to gain insights into signing customs across various regions.


Let’s explore a few examples of how to incorporate “look” in ASL:

Formal Example:

If you’re at a formal conference and want to direct someone’s attention to the stage, use the “gaze” sign. Extend your index finger forward, holding it at eye level, and point it towards the stage while maintaining eye contact. This respectful gesture indicates that you want the person to focus their attention on the speaker or presentation.

Informal Example:

In a casual gathering with friends, you can use the “check out” sign to direct someone’s attention to a delicious dish on the table. Hook your index finger towards yourself, move it from one side of your body to the other, and direct your gaze towards the dish. This relaxed sign conveys excitement and indicates that you want your friend to take a look and possibly try the dish.

Remember, practice enhances fluency in ASL, so don’t hesitate to engage with Deaf communities or find reputable online resources to further develop your signing skills.

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