The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary

Second Edition

By Richard A. Tennant & Marianne Gluszak Brown
Illustrated by Valerie Nelson-Metlay

Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781944838782, 462 pages, July 2020
Ebook : 9781944838614, 462 pages, June 2020
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This unique reference can help users locate a sign whose meaning they have forgotten, or help them find the meaning of a new sign they have just seen for the first time. It organizes more than 1,900 ASL signs by 40 basic handshapes and includes detailed descriptions on how to form these signs to represent the different English words that they might mean. Users can begin to track down a sign by determining whether it is formed with one hand or two. Further distinctions of handshape, palm orientation, location, movement, and nonmanual signals help them pinpoint their search while also refining their grasp of ASL syntax and grammar. A complete English word index provides the option of referring to an alphabetical listing of English terms to locate an equivalent sign or choice of signs.

This dictionary features:

  • More than 1,900 sign illustrations, organized by handshape
  • Complete index of English vocabulary for all signs
  • An introduction to Deaf culture and ASL structure

The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary is a one-of-a-kind resource for learning ASL and enhancing communication skills in both ASL and English.


Richard Tennant is a former mathematics teacher who has studied American Sign Language extensively and resides in Acra, NY.

Marianne Gluszak Brown is an American Sign Language Teacher’s Association (ASLTA) professionally certified interpreter and a child of deaf adults (Coda) who works in Palisades, NY.



“The second edition of The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary is a handy reference. Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through graduate students, general readers, and professionals.”


"This reference complements other ASL dictionaries by organizing signs by handshape rather than alphabetically by English word order. In so doing, it acts best as a recognition tool for the ASL learner, leading the user quickly to specific signs without having first to refer to an English-equivalent word. Multiple meanings of a single sign also allow deaf people to increase their English vocabulary. A worthwhile complement to a public or academic library collection."

— Library Journal

"Look up the sign, find the word! It presents students, sign language teachers, and Deaf people alike with a genuinely innovative resource to hone communication skills in both ASL and English."

— Deaf Life

"Every student of ASL should have this book. It would also be an excellent reference book for deaf students who want to create ABC stories, a popular form of ASL storytelling."

— Kim B. Kurz, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education