30+ Universal Symbols, Their Meanings, and How to Use Them

30+ Universal Symbols, Their Meanings, and How to Use Them

30+ Universal Symbols, Their Meanings, and How to Use Them

30+ Universal Symbols, Their Meanings, and How to Use Them

From modern to ancient symbols, we bring you a comprehensive list of 30+ universal symbols and their meanings.

From modern to ancient symbols, we bring you a comprehensive list of 30+ universal symbols and their meanings.

From modern to ancient symbols, we bring you a comprehensive list of 30+ universal symbols and their meanings.

Mar 21, 2024

Mar 21, 2024

Mar 21, 2024

universal symbols
universal symbols
universal symbols

Universal symbols are a secret language that everyone can understand, no matter where they're from. They use shapes, lines, and colors to tell a story or share an idea without using words. Whether you're designing a logo, a website, or a poster, symbols can make your work more intriguing.

If you're looking to bring a unique element to your designs with custom symbols, explore our library of customizable icons and symbols or try our new tool AI icon generator now.

What Is a Symbol?

A symbol can be defined as a mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process. It goes beyond its literal meaning and represents something abstract or immaterial.

Universal symbols have been used for centuries to communicate ideas, beliefs, and emotions. They often hold cultural significance and can have multiple interpretations depending on the context in the society in which they are used.

30+ Universal Symbols and What They Mean

1. The Sun

A universal symbol that is synonymous with light, life, and energy across the world. In Western culture, where it is often associated with warmth and the positive, the sun can also symbolize a chief deity within many indigenous cultures. The sun’s power to illuminate and sustain has given it a place of reverence in many societies.

Sun

2. The Moon

One of the most common universal symbols, the moon carries with it a spectrum of meanings. It symbolizes the feminine, the shadow, and mysterious nocturnal life. It's a beacon for navigation, a calendar in the sky, and a harbinger of change.

Moon

3. The Star

Stars symbolize the constancy and enduring nature of the divine around the globe. They are also used to represent success, dreams, guidance, and honor. The ubiquitous use of stars in flags commemorates statehood, independence, and unity.

Star

4. The Cross

Culturally, the four points of the cross represent self, knowledge, and spiritual strength. As one of the most common universal symbols, a red cross is seen as a sign for medical help in war zones and other emergencies.

red cross

5. The Heart - The Most Used Universal Symbol

An emblem of love, the heart symbolizes human emotion and the seat of the spirit. It is prevalent in many major world religions, and is commonly associated with acts of kindness, affection, and compassion.

Heart

6. The Yin and Yang

From Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represent the dual nature of existence—darkness and light, passive and active, feminine and masculine. It is a symbol of balance and harmony that permeates many aspects of Eastern thought, including medicine and martial arts.

7. The Eye

The Eye of Providence or the All-Seeing Eye is a powerful symbol denoting the divine watching over the world. But even without religious context, the human eye is a universal symbol for the senses, for perception, and for one's ability to see deeply into matters.

8. The Bird

Birds represent the freedom of the soul. They are often messengers in myths and legends that unite the sky and the earth. But bird symbolism can also change dramatically from culture to culture, with the raven denoting wisdom in some and foreboding in others.

9. The Tree

A natural connection between heaven and earth, the tree is a symbol of life. Deeply rooted and reaching toward the sky, it embodies the human condition and is revered in various cultural mythologies.

9. The Serpent

A complex symbol embodying both divine and destructive elements. Often seen as a guardian of life and a symbol of rebirth, the serpent in different guises appears in countless creation myths and religious texts.

10. The Spiral

The spiral represents the cyclical nature of life, death, and rebirth. It is commonly associated with growth patterns in nature and is thought to radiate energy, both inward and outward.

11. The Hand

The open palm is a universal symbol for friendship, peace, and protection. The ‘Hamsa’ in Middle Eastern cultures is a palm-shaped amulet that is used as a sign of protection, often used to ward off the ‘evil eye’.

12. The Anchor

The anchor remains firmly fixed in place but has the ability to be raised and set in motion. Christians see it as a symbol of hope and steadfastness, while others view it as a representation of stability and strength.

13. The Dove

Primarily known as a symbol of peace, the dove also carries Christian religious significance as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Ancient cultures associated the dove with motherhood and fertility, and it has been depicted in many creation myths and tales of the great flood.

Dove

15. The Rainbow

In many cultures, the rainbow is a bridge between the earthly and spiritual realms. It signifies transformation and hope, and in some, it’s considered a path to enlightenment and the realization of potential.

Rainbow

15. The Circle

A symbol of unity and infinity, the circle has no beginning or end. It is an elemental shape used to represent the heavens, cycles in nature, and the eternal cycle of birth, life, and rebirth.

16. The Square

The square symbolizes stability and a sense of order, often used in architecture to represent the earth. In terms of magical and religious symbolism, the square represents the will of god.

17. The Spiral

A fluctuating symbol that can represent growth, evolution, and cosmic energy.

18. The Crescent

The astrological sign representing the moon.the crescent is a symbol of change and transition. It's also a significant symbol in Islam, representing the Islamic lunar calendar and often intertwined with the star in Islamic imagery.

19. The Swastika

The swastika’s history is as complex as it is tragic. Originating as a Sanskrit symbol for positivity, good fortune, and the sun, it was adopted by various cultures for thousands of years. Unfortunately, it is now commonly associated with the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

20. The Lotus

The lotus flower symbolizes purity and spiritual awakening. Rooted in the mud, it grows through murky waters to emerge unscathed, representing the human soul's ability to rise above suffering.

Lotus

21. The Peace Sign

Designed in the 1950s as a symbol of peace and nuclear disarmament, this iconic symbol's popularity has spread worldwide. It is often used to also represent ideas of unity, harmony, and non-violent protest.

22. The Swan

In ancient Greece, the swan symbolized beauty, balance, and grace. It was linked to passion, literature, and creating art.

Swan

22. The Five-Pointed Star

Also known as the pentagram, it has various associations and often carries negative connotations. However, it's also used as a symbol of protection or can represent the human body, each point signifying a limb and the head.

23. The Circle with a Dot in the Center

This symbol signifies the sun in many cultures and is commonly used to represent wholeness, completion, and cosmic order.

24. The Labyrinth

A winding and intricate path that leads unerringly to a center, the labyrinth symbolizes life's journey. It's a powerful symbol for your path within and without, and it's believed to be a representation of the soul's search for enlightenment.

25. The Eagle

A regal bird of prey, the eagle represents power, vision, and freedom. It's often utilized as a symbol of strength by many nations and carries a sacredness in various Native American cultures.

26. The Ship

Sailing from one shore to another, ships symbolize the voyage of life and overcoming difficulties. At the same time, they represent the collective human quest for exploration and treasure.

27. The Scales

Justice, balance, and the weighing of evidence are encapsulated in the image of the scales. This symbol is fundamental in various world legal systems and represents an ideal that all societies strive for.

28. The Wolf

Fierce and loyal, the wolf is a symbol of strength, intelligence, and community. It's often used to represent family or pack dynamics and has been revered by many cultures throughout history.

29. The Lion

Known as the king of the jungle, the lion is a symbol of courage, power, and royalty. It's often used to represent leadership and dominance in many cultures.

30. The Owl

This nocturnal bird of prey has long been associated with wisdom, magic, and intuition. It's a symbol of mystery and insight, often revered by ancient cultures as a messenger between the mortal and immortal realms.

Owl

Other Cultural Specific Symbols

31. Om

A sacred sound and spiritual icon in Hinduism culture, it represents the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness, or Atman.

32. The Ankh

Symbolizing life, the Ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic that was adopted by the Coptic Christians in Egypt as a symbol of eternal life.

33. The Fleur-de-lis

A stylized lily used as a decorative design or symbol in heraldry, it has a long history and is thought to represent purity or the holy trinity.

34. The Triskele

A triskele is an ancient symbol, consisting of three spirals or bent running legs, or three bent /curved lines. It’s a complex Celtic symbol representing many things, such as the element of water or life’s life cycles.

35. The Khanda

In Sikhism culture, the Khanda is the most significant symbol. It is made up of a double-edged sword, with a circle inside and a dagger on one or both sides of the sword, representing the various values, common symbols and concepts of Sikhism.

36. The Hand of Fatima

Just like the 'Hamsa', the Hand of Fatima is a protective sign in islamic cultures and is commonly used as an amulet to protect from the evil eye.

37. The Mandala

A spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism religion, representing the universe. The word Mandala comes from ancient Sanskrit, meaning "circle", and is considered a model for the structure of life itself.

38. The Shamrock

The national symbol in Ireland that represents the Christian Holy Trinity, with its trefoil-shaped leaves.

Final Thoughts - Universal Symbols in Graphic Design

Symbols have always been an important part of graphic design, used to communicate ideas and concepts in a visual and concise manner. They serve as powerful tools for communication, providing a universal language that transcends cultural barriers.

As designers, it is important to understand the significance and impact of symbols in our designs. It's not just about creating visually appealing graphics and abstract concepts, but also about effectively conveying a message or story through the use of symbolism.

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