Top 10 BSL Signs Everybody Should Know

Written by Lucy Tarbox |

Let me start by telling you a story. The year was 2007 and an excited Lucy was on her way to her afterschool club, not knowing what activity she was going to participate in (if you haven’t already guessed, Lucy is me, hi!).

She sat herself down, anxiously twiddling her hair, awaiting her friends to join her. She looks over and notices a lady doing some weird movements with her hands. But she wasn’t talking? Why wasn’t she talking? Her hands were moving, as were her lips, but she had no voice?

Confused, she continues observing, analysing, slowly mimicking the movements herself. The lady notices and comes over to talk to Lucy.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I got into sign language. From that day, I started having private sign language lessons, learning different signs every day and I was mesmerised. I absolutely loved it.

There have been plenty of occasions where I am able to communicate with someone who struggles with this on the daily, and it is so rewarding. Nothing compares to the look of appreciation on a man, woman or child’s face that has difficulties conversing with this language barrier.

Spanish, French and German are all taught within schools but why not sign language? British Sign Language (BSL) is a universal language that is just as important to learn.

There are currently over 900,000 deaf people in the UK, and only 0.1% of the hearing population know how to communicate with them. So here we have it, 10 BSL signs that everybody should know:


Step one: In circular motions move your hand to say hello – it’s that easy!

“My name is”

Step one: Put your dominant hand on your chest in a fist.

Step two: With the two fingers shown in images 2 and 3, place them on the side of your forehead, and then remove them in an outward direction.

Step three: Have your finger in the position shown and wiggle your finger as if you’re drawing a snake.

“Thank you”

Step one: Place your hand on your chin and swiftly pull away.


This is exactly the same as thank you – just one simple step!

“Do you know sign language?”

Don’t panic! I know this one looks hard, but its important that you know this one.

Step one: Point your finger in front of you.

Step two: With your clutched hand, keep your thumb out and place it on the top right of your forehead (if you’re left handed, use your top left).

Step three: Briskly use both hands to bounce off one another.

Step four: Open your hands and create a circular movement, don’t let your palms touch.

“How are you?”

Step one: Start by holding your hands in front of your chest with your fingers separated.

Step two: Begin to brush off your chest and tuck your fingers into the ‘thumbs up’ position.

Step three: Put your hands firmly in front of you.

“Nice to meet you”

Step one: Move your hand in the position shown as if you’re outlining your chin. Start from one side and ‘swoop’ it over to the other.

Step two: Get both hands and put them together, with both index fingers pointing up.

Step three: Point your finger in front of you.


Step One: Start with your open hand below your chin then, when changing the shape of your hand, pull down so your hand is closed just under your neck.


Step One: Keep your finger pointed and move it from the top of your head to the bottom of your face.

“Do you want to go for a drink?”

This one is for you students!

Step one: Point your finger in front of you.

Step two: Swiftly move your hand is circular motions.

Step three: Whilst keeping that movement going, eventually change your hand into the cup shape and move it to your face and gesture (just as you would in a club!)