ILY sign

The ILY is a sign from American Sign Language which, as a gesture, has moved into the mainstream. Seen primarily in the United States and other Americanized countries, the sign originated among deaf schoolchildren using American Sign Language to create a sign from a combination of the signs for the letters I, L, and Y (I Love You).[1]

The ILY is a common sign in Deaf culture meaning, "I Love You" (informal).

The sign is an informal expression of any of several positive feelings, ranging from general esteem to love, for the recipient of the sign. A similar-looking but unrelated variation (thumb toward the palm rather than thumb extended) appears in heavy metal music culture as a "horns" hand-sign and in college football as a sign of support for various teams including the University of Texas. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics uses the ILY sign to symbolize the initials of the university (UL).


Deaf Heritage dates the origin of the ILY to 1905.[citation needed] The sign received significant media exposure with Richard Dawson's use of the ILY in his sign off from each episode of the Family Feud, which he hosted from 1976 to 1985. Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter reportedly picked it up from a group of deaf supporters in the Midwest and, in 1977, during his Inauguration Day parade, flashed the ILY to a group of deaf people on the sidewalk.

Popular 80s professional wrestler Jimmy Snuka would frequently flash the ILY sign with both hands during his matches and interviews, including while standing on the top rope before delivering his finishing move "Superfly Splash".

In popular cultureEdit

Gene Simmons showing the ILY sign at a fashion show, 2012

The ILY sign is used by Doctor Strange as a means to cast his mystical spells.

An upside-down version of the ILY sign is used by Spider-Man as a means to activate his webbing, by holding the sign palm up, with his wrists bent back so his index and pinky fingers are pointing towards the ground.

Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss has used the symbol in photoshoots, concerts and public appearances since 1974. He has stated in a television interviews that he was a Marvel comics fan, and was inspired by the Doctor Strange use of the symbol to use it himself in photoshoots. He later (by 1976 or earlier) had black gloves made that lacked index and pinky fingers so that even his raised open hand would emulate the ILY sign.

The ending pose of the popular K-pop song Boy With Luv by BTS also incorporates this sign with all the members turning around and their right hands in this sign.

All throughout the K-pop song Fancy by Twice, the members of the group do this gesture when dancing.

In the anime Love Live!, Nico Yazawa has a catchphrase called Nico Nico Nii, and has her own action with it, which incorporates the symbol.


  1. ^ "Sign Language: I Love You". American Sign Language University.
  • Deaf Heritage