Israeli Sign Language Dictionary

The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons has produced an innovative and cutting-edge dictionary based on the latest technology. The dictionary features an extensive vocabulary of signs used on a daily basis by the deaf and hard of hearing community in Israel; It is user friendly and you can search for signs by typing words in either of the languages – Hebrew, Russian, English, and Arabic. The search bar has an automatic word completion system.

Type in a word, and the sign you’re looking for will appear in a video clip.

This dictionary was produced with great thanks to the contributions of Mr. Alex Garfeld and Professor Miriam Shlesinger (of blessed memory) who actively supported linguistic accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing population of Israel.

Israeli Sign Language is a visual-spatial dialect used by the deaf community in Israel. Linguistically speaking, it is a natural, full and complete system expressed through hand, facial, and body gestures. This language has a rich lexicon of sign vocabulary and a complex grammatical structure.

Israeli Sign Language is a young language, about 80 years old. Its sign vocabulary was enriched by the community over the decades, and the signs serve as the foundation the language is based on.

The use of a digital video dictionary is a natural choice for documenting a visual language. A video dictionary provides a full and complete image of each of the signs comprising the sign language. Only a video can portray the dynamic dimension of the sign and illustrate its complete structure: location, hand shape, type of movement, direction of movement, and facial expression.

Using contemporary technology, the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons has produced a new dictionary, featuring some 3,000 photographed symbols. In this format, we can continue to update the dictionary and add more symbols.

The dictionary production process, led by Ms. Yael Kakon & Ms. Sara Lanesman

Structure and design

Led by Ms. Yael Kakon & Ms. Sara Lanesman, a large team of language, linguistics and technology experts spent much time thinking about the most suitable technology for the dictionary’s production, programming, and design. Thanks to the latest technology, it was ultimately decided to store the dictionary in the cloud, where we can add additional signs whenever we want. It was also decided that the dictionary will be available for users free of charge. The dictionary was translated into English, Russian, and Arabic (in addition to Hebrew).

Choosing words for the dictionary

To start off the process, we consolidated a list of words for the dictionary. Some of the words were taken from the previous “Israeli Sign Language Dictionary” (Sara Zandberg and Yael Kakon), produced by the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in 2002. This dictionary featured about 2,500 signs, but its interface was based on outdated technology.

The entries for the new dictionary were selected after extensive research, and some were taken from the “Rav Milim” dictionary (Choueka, 1997). New signs were added which didn’t appear in the previous dictionary, as well as signs for new words such as Skype, Uber, chat, etc. In addition, we studied the sign-language-speaking community in order to extract their commonly used signs.

Sign language models

Meanwhile, we invited people from the deaf and hard of hearing community to participate in the dictionary as models. The models were selected through a screening process, after which seven of them were accepted, representing men, women, young people, and adults. The models – Amit Elbaz, Debbi Menashe, Tami Assouline, Maor Ben Zeev, Eti Lankry – are native speakers (children of deaf or hard of hearing parents). Lea Mendelson and David Lanesman are deaf children of hearing parents.

The videos of the sign language models were shot and edited by Coby Hay-Yacobi, a hard of hearing videographer.


The words in Hebrew were edited by language editors (Dr. Hadar Perry and Dr. Nechama Baruch) and the linguistic review was done by Prof. Irit Meir.

The footage of the signs was examined by a control group, including deaf and hard of hearing sign language teachers (Ilana Saban, Hava Savir, Sara Lanesman), who provided their feedback and comments.

All the words were translated into three languages ​​by professional translators: Neri Sevenier (English), Tanya Vinova (Russian) and Suad Tzalach (Arabic). This process ​​entailed many discussions on linguistics and translation.

Further examinations of the said comments and feedback were conducted by Yael Kakon, Sara Lanesman and Linoy Yizhak. Elias Kabakov checked the accuracy of the translation from Israeli Sign Language to English.

Nearly 400 signs were disqualified due to inadequate footage or marking, or due to disagreements on the sign itself. They were sent back for a reshoot.

The dictionary was developed and produced by an integrated, professional team of deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as people with normal hearing. This reflects the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons’ concept of letting deaf and hard of hearing people lead and promote their own initiatives in cooperation with hearing people.

The dictionary is available free of charge on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons, and on, and we are sure you will greatly benefit from it and enjoy using it.

Dictionary structure

Since the grammatical and lexical structure of Israeli Sign Language is different from those of Hebrew, Russian, English, and Arabic, we’ve applied several norms when translating to the different languages.

General Comments

Most of the signs featured in the dictionary have a single meaning identical to the word in the spoken language.
Occasionally there are signs which are synonyms of a single word in Hebrew/English/ Russian/Arabic. For example, the word “watermelon” has several synonyms in sign language. They will be marked with numbers as follows: watermelon (1), watermelon (2), watermelon (3).
Occasionally there are various signs equivalent to a single word in Hebrew. They are not synonyms, but rather represent different shades of meaning, for example: (a) The word ‘open’ in Hebrew has several equivalents in Israeli sign language. These signs represent the acts of opening different objects, such as ‘open box’, ‘open window’, ‘open the door’, etc; (2) The verb ‘go up’ is used in Hebrew to describe a transition to a higher place, such as going up (the stairs), going up (the elevator), going up (the escalator); (3) The adjective ‘short’ will be emphasized in a different way when describing various objects, such as ‘short hair’, ‘short sleeves’, ‘short pants’ and so on. In sign language, each meaning is represented with a different sign. Discrepancies in the meanings are expressed in parentheses.
Most pronouns and demonstratives (those, that, this) are marked by a finger shape pointed at the specified place. The same applies in the case of the adverbs ‘here’ and ‘there’. To an outsider these signs may seem identical, since all of them are marked with the same finger shape. The difference is in the varying directions of motion in accordance with the relevant content or place.
Signs regarding sounds and the ability to hear them are rather rare in sign language. For example, sign language includes signs for words like ‘bark’, ‘sing’, or ‘shout’, but not for words like ‘hum’, ‘whine’ and ‘tweet’. The same goes for some of the instruments: the prominent and common items in this category – such as piano, violin, and trumpet – have signs, but the other items, such as viola and double bass, do not.
Some of the signs associated with the deaf community and culture have unique value in sign language, but no equivalent in Hebrew, Arabic, or Russian. We’ve translated these cultural definitions​​ using short descriptions, such as “flashing doorbell for the deaf”, “vibrating alarm clock”, “communications basket (government financial assistance for accessibility and for the purchase of hearing aids)”.
Notes for each translation language

Hebrew: names of professions and adjectives are written in masculine form. These signs apply to feminine form as well (in sign language there is no distinction between masculine and feminine form). Verbs are represented in their infinitive conjugation (‘to learn’, ‘to eat’, ‘to fret’), except for a few verbs that appear in their present tense, because that’s the exact translation to sign language, such as – “don’t understand”, “don’t know”, “don’t think”, “straggling”.
Russian: Adjectives appear in masculine form. Verbs appear in infinitive form, except a few that appear in present tense (as stated in the previous section).
Arabic: Adjectives appear in masculine form. Verbs appear in third-person single masculine form, future tense (such as “ he’ll visit”, “he’ll play”), except for a few verbs that appear in present tense (as stated in the previous section).
Sign production method

Hand shapes: Sign language has fixed hand shapes called “basic shapes”. These patterns are the raw elements for creating more complex signs. Every sign in sign language is a unique combination of hand shape, type of movement, and location. Any change to one of these parameters alters the meaning of the sign. Israeli Sign Language includes 27 basic shapes. Just as changing sounds in speech alters the meaning of the word (for example, replacing the letter ‘G’ with ‘C’ in ‘gave’ – Gave vs. Cave in English), the signs “yellow” and “yes”/”right” have the same hand shape and location, but differ in movement, while the signs, “mom” and “lunch” have the same movement but different locations and hand shapes.

Hand shapes in Israeli Sign Language

Over the years Israeli Sign Language has been influenced by Signed Hebrew used by hearing teachers to communicate with deaf students, incorporating hand gestures and fingerspelling during speech in Hebrew. Over the years the speakers of this language, members of the deaf community, adopted new basic shapes deriving from the fingerspelling of letters:

New basic finger spelling hand shapes 

These have become hand shapes, in addition to the 27 basic shapes.

Number shapes: each number from 0 to 10 has its own shape. Numbers higher than 10 are constructed with the existing shapes of 0 to 10.
Fingerspelling: each letter of the alphabet has a particular hand shape that represents it.



Chief editors of the dictionary – Israeli Sign Language and Hebrew: Sara Lanesman, Yael Kakon

Project producer: Linoy Yizhak

Word consolidation: Sara Lanesman, Yael Kakon, Linoy Yizhak

Linguistics consulting: Prof. Irit Meir

Hebrew language editing: Dr. Hadar Perry, Dr. Baruch Nechama

Videography and editing: Coby Hay-Yacobi

Linguistic review: Sara Lanesman, Yael Kakon, Linoy Yizhak

Proofreading: Sara Lanesman, Yael Kakon, Hava Savir, Ilana Saban, Linoy Yizhak

Translation from Hebrew to English: Neri Sevenier

Translation from Israeli Sign Language to English: Elias Kabakov

Translation from Hebrew to Russian: Tanya Vinova

Translation from Hebrew to Arabic: Suad Tzalach

Models: Amit Elbaz, Tammy Assouline, Maor Ben Zeev, David Lanesman, Eti Lankry, Lea Mendelson, Debbi Menashe

Technical advisor: Coby Hay-Yacobi

Programming and design: HTML Experts

Want to learn more?

To sign-up for sign language classes at the Sign Language School of the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons (for beginners and advanced students alike – three different levels), please leave your information and we will get back to you shortly.

Email: | Tel: 03-6311595 | Fax 03-6316891

For additional information on courses, visit the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons


Word table for the Israeli Sign Language Dictionary

Sign language models

ISL Dictionary think tank