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).
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, although the thumbs extended version is also used in heavy metal.) 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. 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.
|Appeal to add ILY and other signs to Unicode, YouTube video|
In popular culture
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".
The ILY sign is used by Doctor Strange as a means to cast his mystical spells.
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.
In the anime Love Live!, Nico Yazawa has a catchphrase nico nico nii, and has her own action with it, which incorporates the symbol.
The ILY sign is also a part of the choreography for the song "CASE 143" by Stray Kids (with "143" as a code for "I love you"). It's the title song of their new EP MAXIDENT in which they are referencing love as a "maximum accident".
- "Sign Language: I Love You". American Sign Language University.
- Jack R. Gannon (June 30, 2012). Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America. Gallaudet University Press. ISBN 978-1563685149.
- "Emoji Recently Added, v5.0". unicode.org.
- "The Unicode Standard, Version 11.0.0 Appendix C" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
- https://unicode.org/L2/L2016/16308-more-hand-gestures.pdf[bare URL PDF]