ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►

Concepts back.gif (1674 bytes) marriage

American Sign Language: "marriage / marry / married"

The sign for "marriage" is made by clasping both hands comfortably together.

Your dominant hand should be on top of your non-dominant hand.
For right-handed people, the right hand should be on top of the left hand.

 Memory Aid: think of a couple joining hands at their wedding:


HUSBAND (compounded):


Okay, let me show you better way to sign WIFE.  It is a "compound."  Instead of signing "GIRL + MARRIAGE" I simply bring a modified "C" handshape down from my chin. I consider this to be a better way to sign WIFE because it is more efficient.  The sign for HUSBAND also can be "compounded" and uses a modified "C" as the starting and ending handshape. 





Question: A student writes, "I have a question about the sign variations for "marriage" and "marry." I saw both signed differently on a few other ASL resources. For "marriage," I saw done with the dominant hand sort of waving in a circular motion before clasping both hands together. Is it safe to use either version interchangeably?

Regarding the sign for "marry / marriage" the most common version is to simply clasp the two hands together for either concept.

The added movement version would be helpful in the unlikely situation in which if you might need to sign both concepts in the same sentence and/or differentiate between them.

Possible example: BEFORE-[prior-to] YOU MARRY YOU NEED-[should] MEET MARRIAGE ADVICE-PERSON-[counselor].

If you circle the dominant hand a bit before clasping the two hands together it can mean either marry or married. The added movement can be either phonological (just the person's way of signing it) or morphological (actually influencing the meaning of the base sign).

If the added movement is morphological the added meaning will tend to mean one of the following:
1. Marriage.
2. Married! (The extra movement being similar to the meaning added by an exclamation point (in written English).
3. To have gone through the process of getting married.

The added movement will NOT appear when the sign MARRY is used in compounds such as: HUSBAND, WIFE, or BELIEVE. The extra movement will also typically be dropped in high speed native-level signing of sentences or in conversations where the sign appears repeatedly.

Also, for what it is worth, that same "circle and drop" movement shows up in a version of the sign for ENGAGED / engagement.

NOTE: The "marriage" sign doesn't mean "wedding." They are two different signs.

Also see: "Do you mind if I marry your daughter?"

*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy
DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."

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

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel:

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