17 Symbols You Always See but Don’t Know the Real Meaning Behind

Symbols—logos, cultural icons, and more—abound in our daily lives. However, have you ever thought about what some symbols you encounter truly mean? After all, some symbols you’ve known all your life can have different intended meanings, such as the thumbs up or even the inverted cross! If this piqued your interest, check our list until the end!

Thumbs Up

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Nowadays, people use the thumbs-up sign to show that they’re okay or that all is well, but most don’t know the origins of this symbol or what it was usually used for. Ironically, though today it symbolizes that all is well, in the olden times, it was a symbol of death. In fact, it’s believed that a thumbs up was primarily used when gladiators fought in the Colosseum; the fallen gladiator’s fate would be decided by the most important person in attendance. The thumbs up was thought to represent death, so holding it up would mean that the fallen gladiator should be sent to his death or murdered!

Anarchy Symbol

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Anarchy is one of today’s most famous yet misinterpreted and misunderstood political symbols. When one sees it, they’ll immediately think of lawlessness and chaos. However, if you try to understand it, you’ll realize that the anarchy symbol comprises the letters “A” and “O,” which stand for anarchy and order. ThoughtCo explains, “Placed together, the circle-A symbol stands for ‘society seeks order in anarchy,’ a phrase from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s 1840 book, What Is Property?”

Inverted Cross

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The inverted cross has been widely popularized as something that relates to Satanism or anything evil or against Christianity. So, it’s pretty ironic that it actually came from Christianity itself! In reality, the inverted or upside-down cross is an ancient symbol of St. Peter’s crucifixion and martyrdom. He believed that he didn’t deserve to die like Jesus Christ himself, so he requested that the cross be inverted out of respect.

Jesus Fish Symbol

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Today, most people believe this symbol refers to the multiplication of fish—one of the more popular mysteries of faith written in the Bible. When you read it as it is, it’s easy to think the inscribed word is “ixoye,” but these are Greek letters that refer to “ichthys.” Ichthys is the Greek word for “fish,” but was also the anagram for the word “Jesus” at the time. The Jesus Fish symbol is widely believed to be a secret message that stands for “Iesous Xristos Theou Yios Sotare,” or “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

USB Symbol

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Many know what the USB symbol looks like and what it’s used for, but only a few truly understand its meaning. If you look at the icon closely, you’ll realize it’s a three-forked item, possibly a trident. This is because the main idea behind it truly was Neptune’s Trident, the mighty Dreizack. The trident symbolizes power, and in terms of the USB, it means that it has the power to single-handedly connect multiple devices through one universal point.

V Sign

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Nowadays, the V sign is considered to have many meanings. It’s often considered a symbol of peace or victory; sometimes, it’s seen as a rude gesture in the United Kingdom. However, more historical accounts suggest that the V sign is closely associated with the Hundred Years War. During this time, the French would remove English longbowmen’s middle and index fingers before returning them to their country. If you think about it, a person’s middle and index fingers are needed if one’s an archer!

Peace Symbol

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The peace sign is a relatively new symbol, especially compared to the Jesus fish symbol or the inverted cross. It’s widely popular, but its current meaning veers from what it was initially supposed to symbolize. An article in Reader’s Digest explains, “It originated as a symbol used by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). In the case of the peace sign, it was based off of the combination of the letters ‘N’ and ‘D,’ which together stood for nuclear disarmament.”

Heart Symbol

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Nowadays, people of all age groups use the heart symbol to signify love or something romantic and sweet. However, the actual origin of the heart symbol is a plant that ancient Egyptians utilized around the seventh century B.C. for contraceptives. This plant, Silphium, which was shaped like the heart symbol we know today, was so popular and supposedly effective that it became over-cultivated and later went extinct in around the second century B.C.

Caduceus

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Caduceus is a symbol from Greek mythology representing Hermes, the messenger of the gods. This symbol is represented by two snakes that are entwined around one staff, and it is often mistakenly associated with medicine. However, the Rod of Asclepius, featuring a single snake coiled around a rod, is the more accurate symbol for medicine, representing Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Caduceus, therefore, more accurately represents guidance, diplomacy, negotiation, and other trade, commerce, and communication attributes.

Infinity Symbol

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The infinity symbol is often depicted as something that signifies endless love. However, though the infinity symbol indeed represents continuity and boundlessness, it was not originally intended to be associated with romance or other spiritual or mystical meanings. Instead, the infinity symbol is rooted in mathematics and science, showing, for example, the endless cycle of life and death, transformation and renewal, and the transcendence of time and space.

Barber Pole

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The barber pole is a symbol that has been around for hundreds of years and has a lot deeper meaning than just a barber cutting someone’s hair. In the Middle Ages, barbers cut people’s hair and worked as dentists or surgeons for the masses who couldn’t afford to go to the hospital or see an actual doctor. Uppercut Deluxe explains, “The red and white stripes of the barber pole originated from a practice known as bloodletting. The bloody bandages associated with bloodletting inspired the red and white stripes, while the barber pole itself symbolizes an instrument people gripped onto during the procedure to encourage blood flow.”

Om Symbol

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A common misconception about the Om symbol is that it is merely a decorative motif with no cultural significance or specific meaning. However, it holds deep spiritual significance in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies. The Om symbol is all about the universe, creation, preservation, and destruction, and each part of the symbol—the curves, the dot, and the semi-circle—symbolizes various aspects of existence, such as one’s consciousness, dream state, and deep sleep. Om is chanted to connect with the divine and achieve inner peace.

Wireless Symbol

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The wireless symbol, usually represented by lines radiating outwards, indicates a nearby wireless network. This symbol allows you to connect your phone or computer to the internet without the need for cables or physical connections. However, what many people overlook is that this symbol represents more than just the ability to access the Internet wirelessly. It also represents how we can connect with each other and access information from faraway places without the constraints of physical connections or wires.

@ “At” Symbol

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The symbol “@” that we commonly use in email addresses today has a fascinating history. It originated in the early Medieval era when books were copied by hand. Since ink was scarce and expensive, monks would use the symbol “a” with a circle around it instead of writing the word “at” to save ink. This practice continued even after the invention of the printing press in 1436.

Ampersand

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The ampersand or “&” is the shortened version of the word “and.” It’s used in headlines, creative works, or even brand names and logos. While its meaning in history remains the same, a little fun fact is less known by people worldwide. It evolved from a mushed-together writing of the letters “E” and “T” for the Latin word “et,” which also means “and.”

Swastika

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The Swastika is viewed as a very negative and haunting symbol because of the role it played during the Nazi rule. However, its true meaning was corrupted because it was actually derived from Eastern religions and cultures, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Britannica explains, “The swastika as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune is widely distributed throughout the ancient and modern world.”

Trinity Knot Symbol

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The Celtic symbol, often associated with the Holy Trinity in Christianity, has a complex history that goes back to times before its Christian interpretation. The exact original meaning of the symbol remains uncertain, but there is evidence of its use in ancient Indian sites and on German coins. Throughout history, it has adorned architecture, including the Book of Kells. It is also embraced by pagans and Wiccans as a symbol of the Triple Goddess.

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Author: Karen Danao

Bio:

Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.

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