Taiwan Sign Language (TSL) is the language used by the deaf community in Taiwan. The compilation of the TSL Online Dictionary has had both academic and pedagogical considerations.
For teachers in deaf education or the general public, this dictionary is a tool for learning TSL. We also hope to provide a database for those who might be interested in doing research on the linguistic structure of TSL,
especially its phonology (basic elements for forming lexical items), morphology, and semantics.
The compilation of the Taiwan Sign Language Online Dictionary was under the supervision of Prof. Jane Tsay and Prof. James H.-Y. Tai.
The collection of data started in 2001 and have collected near 3000 lexical items based on Smith and Ting's pioneer work Shou Neng Sheng Qiao [Your hands can become a bridge], Shouyu Fanyiyuan Peixun Jiaocai [Materials for Training Sign Language Interpreters] published by Department of Labor,
Taipei City Government, and the collection of our own field work for the reference grammar and other research projects of the TSL research group. The database will expand as our research on TSL continues.
The current 4th edition of the dictionary has over 3700 signs and 560 sentences.
Each sign has been coded with two phonological features, handshape and location. These features can be used for linguistic analysis and also have been included as new search features.
Please read the User's Guide before you use the dictionary. Your comments and suggestions will be highly appreciated. Please contact the webmaster at
To cite this website:
Tsay, Jane, James H.-Y. Tai, Shih-kai Liu and Yijun Chen. 2022. Taiwan Sign Language Online Dictionary. 4th Edition (English version). Chiayi: Taiwan Center for Sign Linguistics, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan.
Grants from the National Science Council, Taiwan (NSC90-2411-H-194-025, NSC91-2411-H-194-002, NSC92-2411-H-194-001, NSC93-2411-H-194-001,
NSC94-2411-H-194-016 (I), NSC95-2411-H-194-004(II), NSC96-2411-H-194-001(III), NSC98-2811-H-194-004, NSC101-2410-H-194-118, NSC102-2410-H-194-037-MY2)
Our long-term consultant and primary signer Yu-shan Ku and his wife Yue-xia Xiao.
Sign language researchers: Jean Ann, Chien-min Chao, Susan Fischer, Qun-hu Gong , Scott Liddell, Wayne Smith, and Gladys Tang.
Research assistants over the years, for video-taping, editing the video recordings, text descriptions, etc.: Shuping Gong, Hsin-Hsien Lee, Shiou-fen Su, Meylysa Tseng,
Hui-juan Liu, Ya-Ching Tsou, Yan-An Lee, Pei-lan Wu, Yi-Hsien Lee, Yi-jun Chen, Ming-xiu Huang, Yi-ling Wu, Xin-hui Chen, Shi-kai Liu, Yu Hong, Chang-yu Wu, Xiu-qing Lin,
Ya-jiun Tseng, Zhi-ren Zheng, Guan-nan Jiang, and Wan-yu Liu.
Programming: Chun I Chen of Department of Information Management, National Chung Cheng University.
This online dictionary supports Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browser.
You can search for a sign by 'English Search' or 'Features of TSL'. English Search contains 'Keyword Search' and 'Location Search' and Features of TSL contains 'Handshape Search' and 'Location Search'. Click here for guides for searching.
Every entry contains a video clip, pictures of the handshape and locations, and some entries contain examples of sentences. If an entry is polysemous or synonymous, its polysemy and synonymy are also listed.
Each video clip offers three types of playing speed for TSL learners: normal speed, 1/2 normal speed and 1/4 normal speed.
Some TSL signs have dialectal variations. N and S stand for the northern and southern Taiwan variants, respectively. For example, when you search the word ABLE, you will see ABLE_N and ABLE_S for the two variations.
Besides the aforementioned dialectal variations, some TSL entries have other free variations. For example, when you search the word PERSON, you will see PERSON _A and PERSON _B.
This means that the word PERSON has two variants, which are not dialectal variations but a single sign with different variants. We list the variants according to their frequencies, with the A variant being the most frequent, and the B, C, D variants being less frequent.
Guide of searching function
Type your target word in the 'Search' at the right of the window and click on the button 'Submit'.
Use the first alphabet of the target word for search. Then the entries will be listed on the right of the window. You can click on the entries to view video clips.
First, click on the 'Handshape Search' at the right of the window. Next, choose the handshape of the sign, and the location. Then, the entries will be listed.
You can also click on 'All of the entries' for the entries. Click here for Guide for using Handshape Search.
Users can use the location of a sign for search. Click on the 'Location Search' first. Next, click on the picture of the location of the sign.
Then, click on the picture of the handshape, and the entries will be listed. Click here for Guide for using Location Search.
To search the handshape more quickly, handshapes are categorized by the number of fingers. Except for signs with four fingers and a thumb, which open or close together, the number of the fingers is counted based on the number of extending fingers.
For example,/ / is signed by extending the index finger and middle finger, so the handshape / / is used for searching.
Some handshape have two or three variants. The difference lies on the extending or bending knuckles. For example,/ /has three variations:
/ /,/ /,and / /.
Click / /for the variations.
If a sign is one-handed sign, please search with the handshape of the dominant hand. For example, ONE is signed by extending the index finger in front of the body, so the handshape / / is used for searching.
- Two-handed signs:
If both hands have the same handshape, whether both hands are moving or still at the same time, use the handshpe for search. For example, PLAY is signed by extending the index fingers of both hands above shoulders,
so please choose / / for searching.
If both hands have different handshapes, whether both hands are moving or still at the same time, either handshape can be used for search. For example, BIRD is signed by closing the thumb and the index finer repeatedly in front of the mouth,
with the other hand moving up and down repeatedly, so either the handshape / / or / / can be used for searching.
If one hand stays still while the other is moving, whether both hands have the same handshape, use the handshape of the moving hand for search. For example, SHRIMP is signed by curving the index finger of one hand repeatedly on the back of the other hand, so the handshape
/ / is used for searching.
Guide for Location Search
If a sign is one-handed sign, use the location of the dominant hand for search. For example, ONE is signed by extending the index finger in front of the body, so the location 'in front of body' is used for searching.
- Two-handed signs:
If both hands are at the same location, whether both hands are moving or stay still at the same time, the location is used for search. For example, PLAY is signed by extending the index fingers of both hands above shoulders, so the location 'head' is used for searching.
If both hands are at different locations, whether both hands are moving or still at the same time, the location of either hand can be used for search. For example, BIRD is signed by closing the thumb and the index finer repeatedly in front of the mouth, with the other hand moving up and down repeatedly, so either the location 'mouth' or 'in front of body' can be used for searching.
If one hand stays still while the other is moving, whether both hands have the same location, use the location of the moving hand for search. For example, SHRIMP is signed by curving the index finger of one hand repeatedly on the arm other hand. So, the location 'arm' is used for searching instead of 'in front of body'.
Handshapes are categorized by the number of fingers. Some handshapes have two or three variants shown as small picture.