In sign language, finger spelling a persons name can be tedious (one sign for each letter), so in some Deaf cultures, people who sign usually have a deaf name. This name is usually one or two signs, and it has some relation to the person.

Sometimes the first letter of a persons real name is used if the person doesn't have a deaf name, or deaf names are not used in that culture.1

The deaf name is never given to oneself, usually a persons' friends bestow the name on you. This name will also change after time, since if your name is "far" (or rather, the sign for "far") because you live far away, it will no longer be appropriate when you move closer to your friends.

Some deaf names are a sign that sounds like, or is similar to, the persons real name. For example, my original deaf tutors' name was Angela, and her deaf name was the sign "Angel". Or someone named "Penny" may have a deaf name that is the sign "Money". (It is actually a play on the James Bond character Money-Penny).

For the record, my deaf name is, and probably will always be, "Cheeky".

1. Thx to liveforever for reminding me of that one.

Please note, I base this on my experience with the deaf culture, and I am reasonably sure that this extends to other forms of sign language other than ones based on British Sign Language (BSL). However, I only speak New Zealand Sign Language, so if someone knows that deaf names are not used in a certain culture, please let me know, and I will correct it here.