At the start of this video for learning British Sign Language, there is a sign which I don't recognise.

Man pulling eyebrow with index finger of non-dominant hand

With the index finger of the non-dominant hand, the signer is pulling their eyebrow down while quirking the other eyebrow up. The signer immediately follows with the sign for "who?" - namely the rotating upward-pointed index finger.

The caption at this point is "Who is it?".

However, I can't identify what the sign means in isolation, and I can't find it anywhere.

What does this sign mean? My best guess at its meaning is as a question indicator.

More generally, is there a way I'm missing of searching the Internet for the meaning of unknown signs? (I've tried describing the sign, but I don't even get anything relevant for british sign language eyebrow.)

  • To the downvoter: what may I improve about this question? I really thought I had included everything relevant. Jun 16, 2016 at 11:25

1 Answer 1


The man in the picture you posted wiggles his eyebrows in imitation of the man on the screen. This is not (a morphemic) part of the sign he is producing. Also, the sign you are asking about is not (syntactically) part of the sentence "Who is it?".

He puts his index finger to his eyebrow. That sign means consider, or ponder or think. In the Dictionary of British Sign Language/English, that may be found under entry 313. This sign may be produced with a slightly different handshape (with bent knuckles) and movement (the hand may make small clockwise motions) which might be why you didn't recognise it.

As to why this word is used here, I would translate it as "Hmmm". So a more literal translation of the first few words might be something like "Hmmm, who is that? Why, it's ..."

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