Concepts back.gif (1674 bytes) water

  ASL University ►

American Sign Language: "cereal"

The sign for "cereal" is made by placing your right index finger - palm down - at the right corner of your mouth. (If you are right handed).

While moving your hand to the left corner of your mouth, change the handshape into an "x."  Alternate between the straight index finger and the letter "x" a couple of times. Remember, the movement is from right to left (if you are right handed).


Daniel: What would be a memory reminder for "Cereal"?

Dr. Bill: Think of the milk that is on your chin dribbling off.  That help?

Daniel: Sure did, I thought it might be something like that.

Dr. Bill:  :) 

"Did you recently eat cereal?" = YOU RECENT EAT CEREAL YOU?


Signing notes:

Students often get the signs CEREAL and DRY confused.

DRY and CEREAL move in opposite directions.

The sign for "DRY" moves from left to right across your lips (if you are right handed).  DRY starts as an index finger, changes into an X and stays in the form of an "X," palm down, without changing back to an index finger.

Remember: The movement for CEREAL should be toward your non-dominant side.  The movement direction of CEREAL is opposite that of DRY.

Remember the sign DRY starts with a straight index finger and then change it into an "x" while dragging it to the right.  The point is, DRY moves left to right and changes only once into an "X." DRY doesn't change back and forth. Cereal changes back and forth and moves right to left (if you are right handed).

More notes and additional reading for you overachievers:

In a message dated 4/11/2005 7:58:03 PM Pacific Daylight Time, gbrotherton@_____ writes:

Dr. Vicars,

The sign for "cereal" in Lesson 7, you demonstrate using the index finger to x hand shape across the mouth a few times, but the ASL browser from Michigan State University uses a gesture of eating from a bowl.
Should I be concerned about the different variations?

-Gene Brotherton, Jr.
Port Orange, FL.

The answer is simple:  I'm right and they are wrong. 
Heh.  Just kidding. (It is rarely as simple as "right and wrong.")
Thanks for including the link.  I took a look at it and the model is doing an initialized "C" version of "soup."    The "eating from a bowl" sign can be modified to mean "soup"-("U" handshape), RICE-("R" handshape), or -- less common -- CEREAL-("C"handshape).
You can even modify "SOUP" to mean "SPOON" by sort of dropping the "bowl" at the end of the sign and holding the "U" handshape up a moment longer.  You can modify SOUP to mean "eat soup" by using a larger, slower movement.
You shouldn't be overly concerned about such variations.  Only dweebs, purists, or ASL instructors (ahem) give a fig about it.  Skilled Deaf signers will recognize both variations.
Obviously there are regional variations, but the initialized version of "cereal" (eating from a bowl) with a "C" is not something that I'd teach to one of my ASL classes.  I consider the "C" version to be "Signed English" -- not ASL.
Personally my main concern is if "cereal" is being eaten...did I get an invite and can I have the toy prize from the box?
Take care,
Dr. Bill

Here are some additional clarifications for you shared by my wonderful associate, Lyn J. Wiley:
(Lyn is Deaf, constantly researching, and has many decades of ASL teaching experience).


Lyn J Wiley writes:

There are three often-used signs for cereal.

1. Index finger of dominant hand is held with the tip at dominant side of mouth (palm faces down); move hand across the mouth and as you do, crook the index finger 3 times. If you know the sign for 'worm,' this is like signing 'worm' across the mouth (Dr. Bill demonstrates this sign in his Lifeprint ASL Dictionary)

2. Non-dominant Slightly Cupped hand, palm faces up - hold hand stationary, it represents a cereal bowl. Dominant hand is also Slightly Cupped (palm faces sort of up); move it in two 'scooping' motions as if scooping cereal 'up and out of' the 'bowl.' This sign differs from the sign for soup in that soup uses a dominant U hand shape to represent a spoon (unlike a Slightly Cupped hand shape used to sign cereal).

3. This is a one-handed sign. The dominant hand is in a Wide-C shape, as if holding a box of dry cereal. Now, using an elbow action only (no wrist action), move your hand in a small, downward arc, as if 'tilting' the box to pour some cereal into an imaginary bowl; repeat that action one more time (two shakes of cereal into an imaginary bowl).

To indicate 'hot' cereal, choose one of the above signs for cereal and then sign 'hot.' You will also see people sign: hot, cereal.  Specific hot cereals such as 'Oatmeal' and 'Cream of Wheat' are spelled out or signed as: cereal, hot, o-a-t-m-e-a-l.

In my experience with ASL, I would say the first sign listed above, is used most often, when signing: hot cereal.

If the cereal sign is not preceded or followed by the sign for 'hot' it is presumed to be cold cereal.

- Lyn J .Wiley


I appreciate Lyn sharing her observations.
I would further suggest that actually the"worm across the mouth" version (heh) actually only tends to do two "crooks of the finger" (not three).  If I

Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


You can learn sign language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University    Dr. William Vicars