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Top 15 Symbols of Greed and Their Meanings

Gray wolf.

Greed is a quality often witnessed in humans. It is a negative quality that people demonstrate. Greedy people usually don’t have much regard for the needs or feelings of the people around them. They are self-centered and display a lack of empathy. Their inability to take responsibility for their actions and behavior makes them difficult people to deal with. Greedy people are also often quite envious. They have a desire to acquire more possessions, wealth and power

Greedy people are usually never satisfied with what they have. They are often also great in the art of manipulation and can resort to trickery in order to get what they want. Such people are not good at maintaining boundaries and can compromise ethics as well as moral values to achieve their goals. 

Throughout history, greed has been depicted strongly through symbolism. A number of animals, colors and flowers have all been associated with this attribute. Animals exhibiting a similar quality are linked to the concept of greed. Cultures have also influenced and formed symbols of greed. Often animals with qualities linked to deceit, greed and cunningness have also been characterized in fables and stories. 

Let’s have a look at the top 15 symbols of greed that have been rampantly used throughout the course of history:

1. Frog

Tree Frog.
Tree Frog
JJ HarrisonCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The frog has been used to represent many attributes throughout history. In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the frog is a symbol of fertility. The Greeks and Romans also associated the frog with fertility and harmony

The frog has also been a symbol of greed. It has been looked upon as a creature desiring to live on the land and in water – in both worlds. (1) 

2. Wolf

The Gray Wolf.
The Gray Wolf
Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USACC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There have been many tales and legends surrounding the wolf within the realm of wolf mythology. In many of these stories, such as the red riding hood, wolves have been a symbol of greed.

In Norse Mythology, two wolves are linked to Odin, the All-Father. These two wolves, Geri and Freki, symbolically represent greed and voracious hunger. (2) In western fairytales and fables, the image of a wolf is often portrayed as devilish, greedy beasts with a tendency of corruption and thievery.

This western characterization of wolves often shows the human manifestation of fear towards these creatures. (3)

3. Fox

A fox.
Fox
Image by monicore from Pixabay

In pre-Christian times, the fox was seen as a symbol representing gods, such as the symbol of the forest or mountain spirits. In Christian times, the image of the fox changed, and it was seen as more of a demonic creature.

Today, the fox is a popular symbol in fables and stories and is often portrayed as being greedy, tricky and dishonest. (4) The words’ cunning,’ ‘crafty,’ ‘greedy’ and ‘sly’ have all become synonymous with the fox. Even though the fox looks weaker compared to the wolf, its intelligence and cunning nature have ensured its survival in legends and fiction. (5) 

Within the realm of Greek Mythology, the fox was the main character that tried to steal grapes (and other items) from Bacchus, the god of grapes. Within Christianity, stealing grapes is seen as a mortal sin; hence, the fox has been linked to the concept of heresy.

The fox also embodies injustice, sin, greed and lust, as well as arrogance. (6)

4. Yellow Color

Rough Yellow Wall.
Rough Yellow Wall
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Yellow is the color of gold and is sometimes used to represent greed. The Seven Deadly Sins were qualities and vices that were thought to be the epitome of misdeeds in early Christianity. Each sin was represented by a color. As yellow is the color of gold, it was used to represent greed. (7)

5. Dark Orange Color

A canvas with orange color with brushstrokes.
Dark Orange painting
Image courtesy: pxhere.com

Colors affect our psyche profusely. Each color gives a different message and instills specific emotions in us. The symbolism associated with the color orange is strong. The color orange can positively impact one observer and negatively impact another, depending on perception.

Orange can remind one of placid autumn evenings. It can be a reminder of optimism, enthusiasm and self-confidence. But it can also connote feelings of pride, arrogance, inferiority and greediness. Different shades of orange can imply different types of characteristics and emotions. 

For example:

  • Burnt orange may indicate tension, pride or feelings of aggression.
  • Peach implies a higher level of sociability and encourages communication.
  • Orange with a hint of gold can represent self-control and vitality.
  • Amber can represent arrogance but also encourage feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem.
  • Dark orange usually represents a toxic level of pride, selfishness and greediness. This is why dark orange is often associated with being symbolic of greed. 

6. Orchid

An orchid flower.
An orchid flower
Image Courtesy: pikrepo.com

The word ‘Orchid’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Orchis,’ which means ‘testicle.’ Throughout history, the Orchid has been associated with many attributes and feelings. Some of these also include lust, wealth and greed. This flower is also known as ‘long Purples,’ ladies’ fingers and ‘ladies tresses.’ (8)

Japanese culture saw Orchids as a sign of wealth, loyalty and prosperity. Orchids were often hidden inside temples as offerings to a deity or as elegant décor. During the Victorian era, rare orchids were displayed by the royalty and elite classes. They were seen as a sign of luxury and refinement.  (9)`

7. Green Color

Green grass background
Green grass
Image Courtesy: pixahive.com

Green reflects nature and symbolizes freshness and fertility. This color also gives a feeling of safety. However, the dark green color portrays ambition, greed and jealousy.

When green is mixed with yellow, then that yellow-green color shows illness and coward nature. Green gives a calming effect to the eyes and is considered a cool color. (10)

8. Daffodil

Daffodils outdoor.
Daffodils
Photo by Maria Tyutina from Pexels

Daffodil, also known as Narcissus, could be associated with greed. A narcissist is someone who is extremely self-involved to the degree that it makes him ignore the needs of those around him. This can also harbinger greed. (11)

9. Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle
Ardfern, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Honeysuckle has a sweet nectar that someone can eat. It represents gluttony. This negative emotion is linked with greed. (13)

10. Dollar Sign

The symbol of the dollar can be considered as the ultimate wealth and is inspired by human greed. Though it is mostly used for money, it is also a symbol of a capitalistic society that drives people to hoard wealth and take it from others. Greed drives wars, hate, and jealousy. (19)

11. Rooster

A rooster head.
Rooster
Mabel Amber Via Pixabay

In Buddhism, the three poisons are greed, hatred and delusion. The rooster is a symbol of greed in Buddhist practices. (11)

12. Dragon

A red Chinese dragon during a Chinese New Year festival.
A red Chinese dragon during a Chinese New Year festival
Annette Miller via Pixabay

The dragon was an important creature, and its symbol was used with different meanings. This is used in Norse Mythology and later in the Scandinavian countries. The western dragons were a symbol of evil or the devil.  The Scandinavian dragons represent greed or pride. (14) (15)

13. Pig

A Pig in Yard.
A Pig in Yard
Image Courtesy: pxhere.com

The pig has different meanings in world culture and has been used in literature and art to symbolize these meanings. Swine can stand for extreme joy and celebration, fear or repulsion.

Whereas when it represents negative attributes, it can be used for greed, gluttony and uncleanliness. These attributes have often been used for humans, too, by relating a person to a pig. (16)

14. Locusts

Locust on top of rock on water.
Garden Locust
Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In many cultures, insects are also used for representing both positive and negative qualities. Locusts have been used to represent greed, and more literally, plague and destruction.

While locusts are extremely greedy insects that can wipe out entire harvests, they are also easy prey for rodents. In this way, locusts not only can bring starvation and crop failure, but due to the rodents who feed on that insect, germs and diseases can also be spread. (17) (18)

15. Mammon

This is a biblical term famously used by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. It refers to worldly wealth and riches. It was used by Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount and also appeared in the Gospel of Luke.

Medieval literature often refers to it as an evil demon or god. Since the 16th century, it has been used to refer to someone who negatively pursues wealth. It is used in both religious and secular contexts. (20)

Summary

Greed or the longing for material gain is identified as undesirable throughout the course of human history. Greed can be for food, money, land, power or social status. Greed is often known to create a conflict between personal goals and an individual’s social goals as well as reputation.

Which of these top 15 symbols of greed were you already aware of? Let us know in the comments below!

References

  1. https://www.muddycolors.com/2013/09/seven-deadly-sins-carousel-greed/
  2. https://worldbirds.com/wolf-symbolism/
  3. Jesse, Lisa, “Wolves in Western Literature” (2000). Chancellor’s Honors Program Projects. https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_chanhonoproj/391
  4. https://www.wsl.ch/land/products/predator/paper2.htm
  5. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/19144987.pdf
  6. http://www.gongoff.com/symbology/the-fox-symbolism
  7. https://www.webfx.com/blog/web-design/7-deadly-sins-represented-with-web-design-colors/
  8. https://woodville4.tripod.com/meaning.htm
  9. https://orchidrepublic.com/blogs/news/orchid-flower-meanings
  10. http://homepages.neiu.edu/~jgarcia130/cs300/colorgreen.html
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_poisons
  12. https://www.uniguide.com/daffodil-flower-meaning-symbolism/
  13. http://gd230typographywinter2013.blogspot.com/2013/02/seven-deadly-sins-murphy-flowers.html
  14. https://www.thedockyards.com/ancient-dragons-scandinavian-folklore-mythology/
  15. https://www.wcl.govt.nz/blogs/kids/index.php/2011/01/20/what-do-dragon-symbols-mean/
  16. https://creative.colorado.edu/~ruhu7213/web/labs/lab-02/lab-02-wiki.html
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insects_in_literature
  18. https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/features/locust-attack-an-ancient-threat-of-damage-and-destruction-11590485590193.html
  19. https://levant2aus.com/blogs/design-meanings/the-ultimate-wealth-dollar-sign-design
  20. https://www.britannica.com/topic/mammon

Header image of a wolf courtesy: wikipedia.org / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 15 Symbols of Greed and Their Meanings," Give Me History, January 11, 2022, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-greed.

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