Every day we find thousands of signs and symbols. In fact, we use some of them to express our strongest feelings when we can’t find the right words. But have you ever wondered about the origin of these symbols? And are we using them correctly?
We at CreativeSide have decided to investigate these questions in detail and now offer a selection of some of the most famous symbols, the meanings and origins of which remain a mystery to most people.
Famous Symbols And Their Meanings
1. The Ampersand (“&”)
The ampersand symbol (&) represents the Latin conjunction “et”, which is the same as the English word “and” This ligature was invented in ancient Rome by Tire, Cicero’s personal secretary. To speed up writing, Tire invented a system of abbreviations known as “Tironian Notes”.
Many centuries later, the ampersand symbol became so popular in Europe and America that, for a long time, it had the honor of completing the English alphabet.
It only started to be omitted in the early 20th century. The real word “ampersand” is a contraction of the phrase “E by itself” and that teachers used to say after reciting the alphabet from “A” to “Z”.
Over time, the letters “E” and “T” merged with the symbol we use today.
2. The Symbol Of The Heart
In this case, things are even less direct. Despite the popular belief that “love resides in the heart,” everyone knows that the shape of the real human heart has little in common with this symbolic representation. However, there are several theories about the origins of the symbol.
- When courting swans approach in the middle of a lake, their shapes merge into a shape similar to the symbol of the heart. In many cultures around the world, these birds represent love, loyalty, and devotion due to the fact that swan pairs stay together for life.
- Another hypothesis says that the heart symbol originally represented the feminine form. Supporters of this theory argue that the symbol represents the shape of the female pelvis. The ancient Greeks were known to give special meaning to this part of the female anatomy and even built a very special temple for the goddess Aphrodite. It was unique because it was the only temple in the world where people worshiped the buttocks. Oh yes, you read it right!
- There is also a theory that this symbol represents the shape of an ivy leaf. on their vases, the Greeks generally included ivy leaves in drawings depicting Dionysus, the god of winemaking and patron of passion.
3. The Bluetooth Symbol
In the 10th century AD, Denmark was ruled by King Harald Blåtand, a historical figure famous for uniting Danish tribes into one kingdom. Harald was often called “Bluetooth” because he was known to blueberries, and at least one of his teeth was a permanent blue.
Bluetooth technology is designed to bring together multiple devices on a single network. The symbol representing this technology is a combination of two Scandinavian runes: “Hagall” (or “Hagalaz”), which is the analogue of the Latin “H” and “Bjarkan”, a rune that is equal to the Latin letter “B”. These two runes form the initials of Harald Blåtand’s name. By the way, a first-generation Bluetooth device was blue in color and, yes, you guessed it, it looked like a tooth.
4. The Medical Symbol
Many people do not know this, but the symbol of medicine (a cane with wings and two snakes) was mistakenly adopted.
According to legend, the Greek god Hermes (in the Roman pantheon, Mercury) had a magic staff, the Caduceus, which looked exactly like the modern medical symbol. Caduceus had the power to stop any dispute and reconcile enemies, but it had nothing to do with medicine.
The simple truth is that, over a hundred years ago, American military doctors confused the Caduceus with the Asclepius Rod (which looked similar but had no wings and only a snake). As Asclepius is the ancient Greek god of healing and medicine, the error is quite understandable. Subsequently, the symbol took root and is now used to represent medical confidentiality.
5. The “Power On” Symbol
The “on” symbol (or “on”) can be found on almost any device, but few people know its origins.
Since the 1940s, engineers have used a binary system to represent specific switches, where 1 meant enabled and 0 meant disabled. In the following decades, it became a sign with a circle (zero) and a vertical line (one).
6. The Symbol Of Peace
The peace symbol (also known as the Pacific) was invented in 1958 during protests against the use of nuclear weapons. The symbol is a combination of traffic light signals for the letters “N” and “D”, which stands for “Nuclear Disarmament”.
In the semaphore alphabet, the letter “N” is transmitted by holding two flags in an inverted “V” and the letter “D” is formed by holding one flag pointing up and the other pointing down. Superimposing these two signs forms the shape of the peace symbol.
7. The “OK” Sign
Most people interpret this hand gesture as the equivalent of the words “All right“ or ”Okay“. However, it is not perceived as something positive everywhere. For example, in France, the gesture indicates that the person to whom it is addressed is a zero (nothing). There are several theories about the origin of this gesture:
- The “OK” sign is believed to have originated as a visual supplement to the abbreviation for “Old Kinderhook, NY”, the birthplace of the eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. During his election campaign, Van Buren adopted a nickname that looked like the first letters of his hometown name. His campaign slogan was “Old Kinderhook is O. K.” and the posters showed a person showing the gesture “OK”
- Another similar hypothesis affirms that the seventh president of Andrew Jackson, used this expression when finalizing his decisions. He often wrote “All correct“ in German: “Oll Korrect” or just the abbreviation “OK”.
- Another theory says that the “OK” gesture is nothing more than a mudra, a ritual gesture in Buddhism and Hinduism. The sign symbolizes learning, and many Buddhist works of art depict the Buddha making this gesture.
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