17 Symbols You’ve Seen But Never Knew What They Meant

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By Darryl Henderson

Symbols are a great way of informing us about something without needing words or language. However, many symbols may seem familiar but we don’t always know their meaning. Here are 17 symbols you’ve seen but never knew what they meant.

The Ampersand (&)

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The ampersand symbol is frequently used instead of the word “and.” Its origins can be traced back to Ancient Rome. What started as a ligature of the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ from the Latin word ‘et,’ came to be “&”. Business Insider confirms that the “&” was first seen in Pompeian graffiti in the 1st century A.D. and rose in popularity until ampersand was added to the dictionary in 1837.

The Caduceus

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This symbol resembles two snakes spiraling upwards around a winged staff, symbolizing peace, harmony, and balance. Many people mistake this icon for a medical symbol. The caduceus was prominent in Greek mythology as a symbol of commerce and negotiation and ties with the Greek god Hermes.

The Yin Yang

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Originating from ancient Chinese philosophy, the Yin Yang symbol symbolizes the idea of dualism and the connections of opposites. It is displayed as a circle divided into two halves. One half is dark (Yin) and one is light (Yang). It can represent the contrasting forces such as light and dark, good and evil, and masculine and feminine energies.

The Bluetooth Symbol

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Many people may recognize the Bluetooth symbol but may not know the meaning behind it. The Bluetooth symbol resembles a runic letter and combines the initials of King Harald Bluetooth, who is known for bringing Danish tribes together, into a single symbol. According to The Guardian, Bluetooth’s lasting legacy is found today in smartphones and laptops.

The Eye of Horus

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The Eye of Horus has risen in popularity with many people getting a tattoo of this symbol. Its meaning comes from ancient Egyptian mythology, symbolizing protection, royal power, and good health. It is depicted as a stylized eye with markings akin to a falcon’s eye and is thought to ward off evil spirits and bring positive energy to the wearer.

The Peace Symbol

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The peace symbol is a staple of modern society but was originally designed for a nuclear disarmament campaign in the 1950s. Today, it is synonymous with peace, harmony, and anti-war movements worldwide. Psych Central suggests that peace of mind, also described as inner calm, refers to an internal state of tranquility.

The Wi-Fi Symbol

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The WI-FI symbol is well-known by many of us today. The self-explanatory symbol is depicted as radio waves coming outward, symbolizing the transmission of data through the airwaves without wires. It can inform us that internet access is available, allowing our devices to connect to the world wide web.

The Recycling Symbol

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The recycling symbol is a simple one, with three arrows following each other in a clockwise motion. Every arrow symbolizes one of the stages in the recycling process; collection, processing and remanufacturing, encouraging us to contribute to our planet. It is common to see the recycling symbol in green, connecting to the earth and the environment.

The Triskele

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Another common tattoo is the Triskele which has a mesmerizing visual quality with a triple spiral. However, it is not just a beautiful symbol, it has an interesting meaning dating back to ancient Celtic and Greek cultures. It has a spiritual significance, representing concepts such as life, death, and rebirth as well as the past, present, and future.

The Power Symbol

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The power symbol is universally recognized. It is often displayed on electronic devices and shows us where to turn that specific device on. Depicted as a circle with a straight line running through it, this symbol is akin to a visual cue for controlling electronic equipment. It is particularly useful for older people who aren’t as familiar with technology. 

The Ankh

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An ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol, the ankh, resembling a cross with a loop at the top, represents life, fertility, and immortality. Frequently depicted in the hands of gods and pharaohs, it was thought to give blessings and protection to its wearer, both in life and the afterlife.

The Heart Symbol

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Universally recognized as a symbol of love and affection, the heart symbol has its origins in ancient cultures, where it was associated with emotions, spirituality, and the seat of the soul. Nowadays, it can represent romance, empathy, and compassion. BBC hints that religious iconography may have appropriated the imagery of the heart.

The Treble Clef

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The treble clef, also called the ‘G clef’ is a basic sign in music. It tells us what range of sounds the notes on a music line will have. It has a special spiral shape that wraps around the second line from the bottom of the music line. This shows that this line is the G note, which is higher than the middle C note.

The Peace Dove

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The dove symbol has been used for a long time to represent hope and peace. Many different cultures and religions show it as a bird that brings good news and helps make things right again. It’s often shown with an olive branch in its mouth. This peace dove stands for wanting to get along and solve disagreements.

The Om Symbol

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The Om symbol is a special sign in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and other spiritual beliefs. It stands for the basic nature of the universe and the connection of everything in it. People often say “Om” during meditation and prayers. They think it brings spiritual power and helps them connect with something greater than themselves.

The Star of David

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The Star of David is a sign that is very important in Jewish culture and identity. It is made of two triangles that are linked together. This stands for the link between God and the world we live in. It’s also called the Magen David, or Shield of David. It has become a sign of Jewish history, unity, and strength over time.

The At Symbol

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The “@” symbol, also called the “at sign,” is used in different ways today. It was first used in business to mean “at the rate of.” Now, we see it a lot more because of computers, particularly with email addresses, the symbol is used to separate a person’s name from the company name. On social media, it is used before a person’s username when you want to mention them.