ASL University ►

American Sign Language: "step-father"

The sign for "step-father" has a few variations. 

A very popular version of the sign for "stepfather" uses the sign for "second" as in "second-hand" or "turn-taking."  The sign for "second hand" has many meanings including, "used" as in a "used car" or with a bit larger movement it can mean "your turn."  This is not meant to be an insult. In ASL it is simply a way to refer to the idea that a stepfather is "taking a turn at being someone's father." 
In this version you combine the signs for "SECOND-HAND" and "FATHER." 

STEP-FATHER (second-hand version)

It is also very common to simply spell S-T-E-P and then sign FATHER.
For example, here is a sentence where I sign, "What does the term 'stepfather' mean?"
= "S-T-E-P FATHER, what-MEAN?"

There is a version of stepfather that combines "FALSE" + "DAD."
I personally don't like using it for stepfather since I use it to mean "foster father."

STEPFATHER (false dad version)

There is a version of stepfather in which the index finger moves down and back up using a very quick movement.

STEPFATHER:  (one finger variation)

While I don't tend to use the "one finger" variation for STEPMOTHER, I got an email from Dr. Lisalee Egbert. She uses the one-handed version for both stepmother and stepfather. 

Notes from Dr. Bill regarding the "one finger variation" of STEPFATHER and STEPMOTHER:
A "one movement/one location" sign has an advantage over a "two movement/two location" sign since the single movement sign has "economy" in its favor. The "one finger" sign is a strong variation in some parts of the country and I think it is actually increasing in popularity. I can certainly see why Dr. Egbert would use it and I think it is a terrific sign. For me personally though I think I'll still stick with the "second hand" version of "stepfather/stepmother" as the version I teach my own classes. Also remember the "safest" version will likely be to spell STEP when used as part of the sign for "stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, etc."


STEPMOTHER:  another version:

Just in case you are wondering, here is the sign for "STEP." This is a version of the sign for walk that only takes "one step."  Do NOT use this sign as part of the sign for step-father during an ASL test  (unless you want to give your instructor a chuckle).

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 Dr. Bill's "Superdisk."

Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is now available!   CHECK IT OUT >

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 American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University    Dr. William Vicars

back.gif (1674 bytes)