25 Modern Symbols That Have Lost Their Original Meaning

Posted by , Updated on April 29, 2016


Modern symbols can say more about a person, a group of people, an organization, or even a religion and political ideology than a thousand words. Most of us are perfectly aware of what certain symbols represent; in many cases a single hand gesture or salute is enough to give you a clear message (often times not an amicable message to say the least). For example, the swastika is one of the most recognized symbols in the modern world, as well as one of the most feared in history. Even though the swastika is a peaceful, ancient, sacred symbol from Eurasia, not many people know its true origin and most associate it almost exclusively with Nazism and the Third Reich.

However, the swastika is not the only symbol that has lost its original meaning. Other examples include the trident and pentagram, symbols that most people nowadays relate to Satanism and its rituals. However, the origin of these symbols goes back to ancient Greece and has nothing to do with its contemporary meaning. There are so many symbols we use everyday and yet their original meaning is something completely different. Get ready for an awakening with these 25 Symbols in modern times that have lost their original meaning. You might not see “the bird” the same way again.

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The raised fist

The raised fistSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

In modern times, the raised fist symbolizes solidarity and socialism, while it also expresses unity, power, and defiance. It dates back to ancient Assyria where it represented resistance to violent acts.


The mistletoe

The mistletoeSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Each December many people worldwide decorate their houses with mistletoe and kiss beneath it. The original meaning of this plant, however, had nothing to do with kissing or hugging. Ancient Norse myth, where the mistletoe originates, saw a mistletoe as a symbol of ritual castration.


The infinity symbol

The infinity symbolSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: Wikipedia

In modern times the infinity symbol has become a secular mathematical sign for the infinity of numbers, time, or space, but its original meaning has nothing to do with its modern use. In ancient India and Tibet it represented perfection, dualism, and union between male and female.


The Ankh

The AnkhSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: Wikipedia

The Ankh became popular in the West once it was adopted by New Age mysticism groups during the sixties and seventies but has been around for thousands of years. It comes from ancient Egypt where it was a hieroglyphic that symbolized life, while according to other sources it was considered to be the key to the Nile.


The trident

The tridentSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Also known as “the devil’s pitchfork” in pretty much every Christian country, this symbol’s origin has nothing to do with Satan. Its origin can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the trident was seen as a sacred symbol and the powerful weapon of Poseidon, god of the sea.

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