how to swear in bsl

How to Swear in BSL: A Quick Guide

Learners often ask how to swear in BSL. While BSL is primarily used for everyday conversations, it also encompasses various emotions and ways to express them, including swearing. Learning swear words may be fun, but the cultural implications of using such signs are negative, so learn them at your own risk!

This comprehensive guide will explore the cultural context behind swearing in sign language and provide resources for some of the most commonly used signs. Whether you’re learning BSL or simply curious about sign language, this article will provide valuable insights into swearing in British Sign Language.

The Cultural Context of Swearing in Sign Language

Sign BSL shows you the two different types of swearing depending on the context. When we refer to ‘swearing’ we are referring to profanity, not the contextual sign for making a promise or ‘swearing an oath’.

Swearing in BSL is offensive and is rarely used. For some profanity serves as a way to express emotions and to emphasise certain meanings. It is crucial to approach swearing in BSL with respect and sensitivity, recognising its cultural significance within the deaf community.

The sign for swear in BSL

Watch how to sign ‘swear’ in British Sign Language

Swearing in BSL involves hand gestures and facial expressions conveying the intended meaning. The sign for ‘swear’ is as follows:

  1. Start with a closed hand, extending the little finger.
  2. Place the extended little finger on the corner of your mouth.
  3. Move the extended little finger forward sharply.

This gesture represents the act of swearing in BSL. It is important to note that while the hand gesture is essential, facial expressions also play a crucial role in conveying the intensity and meaning of a swear word.

The Impact when you swear in BSL

Swearing, whether in spoken language or sign language, can have a powerful impact on communication. In sign language, swearing is often used to express frustration, anger, or intensity.

Most deaf people are asked by learners to teach them swear words in BSL. The request itself can be a great source of frustration as Jazzy eloquently explains!

The Significance of Facial Expressions in Swearing

In BSL, facial expressions play a vital role in conveying the meaning and intensity of profane or obscene language. They can enhance the impact of swearing and add nuances to the message being conveyed.

Swearing in BSL: Dos and Don’ts

When it comes to swearing in BSL, there are certain guidelines to keep in mind to ensure respectful and responsible communication. Here are some dos and don’ts:


  • Respect the cultural context and significance of swearing in BSL.
  • Pay attention to facial expressions and use them to enhance communication.
  • Be considerate of the emotions that swearing in BSL may evoke.
  • Seek guidance from experienced BSL users, tutors or instructors on using such signs.


  • Use swear words to offend or insult others.
  • Disregard the impact and cultural significance of swearing in BSL.
  • Use swear words without understanding their meaning or context.
  • Use swear words excessively or inappropriately.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can navigate the world of swearing in BSL with respect and sensitivity.

The Evolution of Swearing in BSL

Swearing in BSL, like any form of language, has evolved over time. The usage and meaning of swear words in BSL may have changed or adapted to reflect societal changes and cultural shifts. It is important to remember that language is dynamic, and the usage of swear words may vary among different generations or regions within the deaf community.

The Role of Swearing in Deaf Culture

Swearing in sign language, including BSL, is a part of deaf culture. Some deaf individuals may use swear words to express themselves, just like hearing individuals do in spoken language. Obscene language can also be found in other sign languages used around the world.

Additional information:

If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of British Sign Language, several resources are available, including asking a BSL tutor. Please do NOT ask deaf community members at your local deaf club about swearing, as most deaf community members will be offended by your behaviour.


Remember, learning BSL is about more than just swear words. It is a journey of language acquisition and cultural understanding. Embrace the opportunity to learn BSL and engage with the deaf community in a respectful and meaningful way.


If you really must learn the swear words, you can watch either of these YouTube clips on:

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