The Meaning Behind Famous Signs & Symbols

The Meaning Behind Famous Signs & Symbols

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Used to convey a particular meaning, symbols in the form of sounds, words, ideas, gestures or images are everywhere. We all know, for example, that a red coloured octagon means STOP and that a tick means that something has been done well or is correct.

For plenty of symbols, however, their original meaning has been lost in history, or re-purposed as time has passed. For example, did you know that the peace sign was actually created by a man named Gerald Holtom to encourage British nuclear disarmament and was later adopted by the hippies as a symbol to promote global peace?

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Take a look at the infographic below and find out what the meaning is behind famous symbols yourself! As a logo designer who works with symbols on a regular basis, I find these insights fascinating!

Famous Symbols and Icon Meanings


Often mistaken for a medical symbol (instead of the Rod of Asclepius), especially in the United States, the Caduceus actually represents trade and negotiation.


Also known as the ‘Jesus fish’, the ichthys originally stood for fertility, birth and the natural force of women.

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All Seeing Eye

Representing spiritual sight, inner vision and knowledge, the all seeing eye (or Eye of Providence) has long been misunderstood and misused as one of control and surveillance.

Peace Sign

Many have attempted to link the peace sign to dark, ancient symbols such as Nero’s Cross, but the symbol was actually first created in the 1960s to encourage British nuclear disarmament.


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Although everyone will associate the swastika with the atrocities of World War 2 it is actually a symbol of auspiciousness, which dates back millennia.

Hammer & Sickle

Created during the Russian Revolution to represent the alliance between the industrial worker and the peasant, it is universally recognised as the emblem of the former Soviet Union and international communism.

Evil Eye

Found in a number of cultures across the world, the evil eye is believed to cast a curse of bad luck or injury to an unknowing victim.

Yin Yang

An important symbol in Chinese philosophy, Yin Yang represents perfect balance with two halves, which when combined, complete wholeness.


The pentagram is an ancient symbol of witchcraft and each of its (five) points is believed to represent the four basic elements along with the upward point being a spiritual being such as Gaia or Mother Earth.

The Heart

We all associate the love heart with romantic love and affection, and whilst it is not confirmed, a theory suggests that its shape actually derives from silphium, a giant fennel, which was used as birth control by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Masonic Square

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Featuring two architect’s tools, the masonic square is the most recognisable symbol of Freemasonry, and is used as a basis to teach symbolic masonic lessons. 

Fleur de Lis

The stylised version of this symbol has come to symbolise French royalty, however its origins are with the Gaulish lily which represented the Virgin Juno.


Evidence of this mathematical symbol can be found in all walks of life; from classroom maths, to flight path calculations and even sport!

The Phoenix

A bird from classical mythology which was believed to rise from its own ashes.

Trinity Knots

The three cornered symbol is an ancient Celtic symbol to represent the Holy Trinity as well as the three promises of a relationship such as to love, honour, and protect.

Content provided by Victoria, who is a Marketing Consultant at Parrot Print, specialists in high quality canvas prints. Parrot Print offer unrivalled personal canvas prints with a lifetime guarantee and provided the infographic above.

2 thoughts on “The Meaning Behind Famous Signs & Symbols”

  1. HI, Thanks for sharing your informative and amazing post, I hope everyone will be benefited if they read all of your post. Please write more for us as we learn more.
    thanks again,
    Take Care.

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