Dictionary (DW-DGS)

The digital dictionary DW-DGS (Digitales Wörterbuch DGS) will be the first corpus-based DGS dictionary. The full name of the dictionary is ‘DW-DGS. Digitales Wörterbuch der Deutschen Gebärdensprache — Das korpusbasierte Wörterbuch DGS - Deutsch’

The creation of this dictionary marks an important step in the documentation of, research on, and education in German Sign Language. It is going to be an essential reference work for anyone who uses DGS or is interested in the language.

Like a monolingual dictionary, the DW-DGS focuses on the description of individual signs and their uses. It offers its users a variety of information on the signs, e.g. regarding their variants, meanings and their regional distribution. Written German is used as the language of description.

The DW-DGS furthermore features bilingual elements and search functions. The entries contain German translations of a given sign and the dictionary can be searched via these German words.

Target Audience

Due to the depth of information included in the dictionary, the primary target audiences are people that consider DGS their native language as well as advanced learners who are native speakers of German. Another target audience are people that concern themselves with the structure and use of DGS. This group includes DGS-teachers, interpreters, and linguists.

Furthermore, all other people with an interest in DGS will find interesting information in the DW-DGS dictionary. These might be parents of deaf/Deaf children, late-deafened/Deafened individuals, hearing people working with deaf/Deaf people and anyone who wants to start learning DGS.


The information in the dictionary is based on a wide collection of data from all over Germany, the DGS corpus. The signs’ descriptions are rooted in analyses of their uses in different contexts, as is represented in the natural fluent communication captured in the corpus. A remarkable aspect of the dictionary is that short video excerpts from the DGS corpus are used in the entries as examples to illustrate the sign’s meaning.

The data base of the DGS corpus facilitates substantiated information on frequent and typical sign combinations (collocates) and on the regional distribution of signs. In order to illustrate the latter, the dictionary contains maps showing the distribution of regional signs.

The DW-DGS offers several search options such as the search via two languages (DGS and German) and the more content-based search via subject area.

Pre-release entries

The final version of the dictionary will be published at the end of 2023. Despite this, a first version of several entries can already be explored online. New entries are added regularly. The pre-release entries can give an impression of the dictionary’s content. The layout will be reworked for the final version of the dictionary. Furthermore, not all search options that will be available in the final product have been implemented yet. It will, for example, be possible to search for signs via their form.

The pre-release entries can be accessed here: dw-dgs.de.

Have fun exploring!