In sign languages, handshape, or dez, refers to the distinctive configurations that the hands take as they are used to form words. In Stokoe terminology it is known as the DEZ, an abbreviation of designator. Handshape is one of five components of a sign, along with location (TAB), orientation (ORI), movement (SIG), and facial-body expression. Different sign languages make use of different handshapes.
Handshapes in American Sign Language
Not all handshapes occur with every orientation, movement, or location: there are restrictions. For example, the 5 and F handshapes (the approximate shapes of the hand in fingerspelling 5 and F) only make contact with another part of the body through the tip of the thumb, whereas the K and 8 (a.k.a. Y) handshapes only make contact through the tip of the middle finger, and the X handshape only with the flexed joint of the index finger.