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

Did you know the anarchy symbol represents order? We walk around every day with checkmarks and the Bluetooth logo staring us right in the face without even knowing what they really mean. The meaning of these 17 symbols may surprise you.

Anarchy Symbol

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The anarchy symbol doesn’t promote utter chaos or the freedom to disobey authority, at least based on its true meaning. It’s the letter “A” within the letter “O,”  which means “Anarchy and Order” when put together. It’s a political philosophy that promotes power in the community and individual instead of a central authority.

Yin and Yang

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The Yin and Yang symbol is pretty common and easy to recognize—you may even be wearing one on your necklace right now. Many people don’t know that it’s a symbol that represents two opposing but complimentary principles. Yin represents negativity and darkness, and Yang represents positivity and light, two elements that are necessary to create balance in life.

The Gender Symbols

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The symbols for male and female have a history that dates back to the 8th century, with roots in astrology. According to the UMKC, botanist Carl Linnaeus was the first recorded to use them to represent gender (in flowers), with the male symbol originating from Mars and the female symbol from Venus. He also used the Mercury symbol to represent hermaphroditic properties.

Bluetooth

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The name “Bluetooth” and its symbol represent interconnectivity, but their roots go deeper than just uniting your modern devices. The symbol is a combination of the Scandinavian runes ”Hagall (H)“ and “Bjarkan (B),” the initials of Harald Blåtand, the Danish king who united all of Denmark. He had the nickname “Bluetooth” due to his teeth-staining love for blueberries.

Infinity

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Everyone understands the infinity symbol to be a number or mathematical sequence with no measurement or end. However, many don’t know that wrapped around its mathematical meaning are physical and metaphysical concepts. There’s a spatial meaning about the unlimited number of stars or the forever existence of the universe, and a metaphysical meaning about the absoluteness of God.

Power On Logo

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The logo used to represent power on and power off is actually a combination of the binary numbers “1” and “0.” Scientists in the early 1940s used them to represent switches, with “1” meaning “on” and “0” meaning “off.” They were subsequently combined into one electrotechnical symbol in 1973.

The Okay Gesture

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While many understand this to mean or ask if all is okay, apparently, this isn’t always the case. On one hand, the French, Greeks, and Italians only see it as “Zero (0).” On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sees it as a symbol that white supremacists have adopted in their hate movement.

Peace Sign

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The peace sign originated from the British campaign against nuclear warfare, and many don’t know it means “Nuclear Disarmament.” As Britannica shares, “the vertical line in the center represents the flag semaphore signal for the letter D, and the downward lines on either side represent the semaphore signal for the letter N.” Gerald Holtom designed it in 1958.

The Checkmark

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Today, the checkmark has been incorporated into many logos and used for many purposes. Many don’t know it’s actually a “V,”  representing “veritas,” and was used during the time of the Roman Empire. The word veritas may be translated to “truth,” and of course, it has been incorporated by the telecommunications company Veritas to mean trustworthiness.

Heart Symbol

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We call the symbol of love and affection the “heart,” without it having any semblance to the shape of our hearts. Many say it’s actually the shape of the extinct silphium plant, a key ingredient in love potions used by Romans in the past. Some also say it’s the shape of ivy leaves used to represent Dionysus, the patron of passion.

The Ampersand “&” Symbol

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Many know the ampersand symbol means “and” and is used to combine two words together, and this is all it really means. However, you probably don’t know it has a Latin origin and is a combination of the letters “e” and “t.” It’s the Latin representation of “et,” which means “and,” and you can even use “&c” to represent “etc.”

The Question Mark “?”

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Like the Ampersand, the question mark also has Latin origins and comes from the combination of two Latin characters. It’s from the Latin word “questiono,” which is translated as “question” in English and abbreviated to “qo.” The “?” is said to be an “o” placed beneath a version of the letter “q.”

“@” Symbol

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You’ll most likely see the “@” symbol in your email address and social media handles. But did you know that the “@” is an accounting symbol used in invoicing to mean “at the rate of”? For instance, it can be used like “two strands @ $5,” which means two strands at the rate of $5 each and a total of $10.

The Swastica

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The Swastica currently represents the German Nazis and the anti-Semitic atrocities they meted out during the Second World War. Before Hitler corrupted its meaning, however, it was a widely used symbol for good fortune, as the BBC shares. It’s the Sanskrit svastika (स्वस्तिक), which directly translates to “conducive to well-being.”

Caduceus

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The staff with a snake wrapped around it and wings at its top is a popular sight in medical institutions. It’s supposed to represent the rod of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, as the WHO shares. However, the common but erroneous use of two snakes makes it a staff of Hermes, the messenger of the gods—something many doctors don’t know.

The Om Symbol

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Used as a key symbol in Hinduism, the om sign is actually a short, sound-originating spelling of the letters “A-U-M.” These represent a variety of trinities—the three major Hindu gods, the three Vedas scriptures, the three worlds of earth, atmosphere, and heaven, and even the three Gunas of goodness, passion, and darkness.

The Eye of Providence

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You’ve probably thought that eye on the dollar bill meant something linked to the Illuminati or some other conspiracy theory. Well, it’s none of that. Instead, it represents omniscient knowledge and originates from Christianity, where it represented the all-seeing, watchful eye of God.

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