back.gif (1674 bytes)

thank you

  ASL University ►

American Sign Language: "excuse"

The general sign for "excuse" is made by extending your left hand, palm up.  Brush your right bent-hand fingertips across the left palm starting with the pinky on your right hand. Bend the large knuckles of the right hand slightly. Keep the other knuckles straight. 

This sign when done with a double movement means things like "excuse me." 

If you roll your eyes and shake your head a bit it can be used to mean, "Oh that's just an excuse."

If you just use a single movement, it means things like "laid off from work," "released from a church calling," or "paroled."

EXCUSE: Use a small double movement:


Use a single, larger movement:


Animation: To be dismissed, pardoned, or laid off work.

Advanced / Optional Discussion   (Not Required for Class)

Student: What's the difference between "nice/clean" and "excuse?"

Dr. Bill: The sign nice and clean is pretty much the same except the fingertips of the right hand are brushing across the middle length of the left hand. The sign for "NICE or CLEAN" uses "flat hands" and there is more "palm to palm" contact in NICE/CLEAN than in EXCUSE.

Plus, I bend "EXCUSE" at the large knuckles.   I keep NICE/CLEAN flat.

If that isn't clear, let me know and I can elaborate.

Student: Left or right?

Dr. Bill: Your right hand moves across left.

Student: I want to know if it is the right hand knuckles that need to be bent or left?

Dr. Bill: The large knuckles of the right hand bend. (If you are right handed) The left hand stays flat. The tips of the right hand's fingers brush along the palm of the left hand starting near the butt of the left hand and move to the fingertips of the left hand.    A longer, quick single motion means "to be laid off work" or to be "pardoned, dismissed, or released."

Note: See: "NICE"

Another student asks: Can you clarify nice/clean vs. excuse?

Dr. Bill: NICE and CLEAN are pretty much the same sign just used in different contexts. The concept of "CLEANING" uses a double motion. The right hand in EXCUSE bends at the top knuckles, (the knuckles closest to the wrist), whereas both handshapes for NICE/CLEAN tend to be flat. Excuse generally moves twice, but if you sign EXCUSE with a single motion, it tends to mean "to lay someone off a job" "to pardon with finality" or "to release a person from a church calling," etc. If you sign "NICE" using a double motion, it means "CLEAN UP." [In the proper context.]  You need more explanation on excuse?

Student: no, I think as I practice it'll come...thanks :-)


See: "CLEAN"

In a message dated 1/5/2007 6:12:51 AM Pacific Standard Time, cjzimmer@ writes:

I am having a hard time either remembering or finding how to sign  the word  E-X-E-M-P-T The students here that I work with are seniors in high school and are
getting ready to take mid-term  exams,  there some who will be able to exempt their exams and we were talking about that in the club just yesterday and I continually fs the word... (for not being able to remember the sign)  but is there a sign for E-X-E-M-P-T?  or can you use another sign like the sign for E-X-C-E-P-T.  Is this an acceptable sign to use? 
thank you for your help,
C J Zimmerman
Sign Language Interpreter
Columbia, SC

Hi CJ,
"Exempt" is one of those concepts that you "spell and/or describe" on first use in a conversation depending on the understanding level of your conversation partner.  After you have established context you can then use a version of "excuse" to mean "exempt."  Do the sign "EXCUSE" using a single movement that extends beyond the fingertips of the base hand by about 3 or 4 inches.  This is the same version of "excuse that you use to mean "pardoned" or "laid off work."
I personally wouldn't use the sign "except" to mean "exempt" but I wouldn't have a problem with it it someone else used it.  The sign "excuse" is much closer in meaning so that is what I would choose. Context is important.  Once you have clearly established the context and meaning of this sign you can then use the "pardoned/laid-off" sign to convey the meaning "exempt."
Dr. Bill

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