Love is represented by different symbols all around the world. Despite popular belief, love is not only represented by traditional hearts and roses.
In fact, different civilizations have used different elements to symbolize love over time. Some of these elements have been passed down and adopted by the 21st century.
Varying symbols express love differently. These symbols have held importance in their own era as they have acted as a form of expression.
Below is our list of the top 23 most important symbols of love throughout history.
Table of Contents
- 1. Apples
- 2. Claddagh
- 3. Cupid
- 4. Dove
- 5. Harp
- 6. Jasmine
- 7. Kokopelli
- 8. Love Knot
- 9. Maple Leaf
- 10. Osram Ne Nsoromma
- 11. Rose
- 12. Shell
- 13. Swans
- 14. Rose Quartz
- 15. Ribbons, Laces, and Frills
- 16. Hands
- 17. The Lovers- Tarots Symbol
- 18. Copper- Alchemy Symbol
- 19. Padme Lotus- Ashtamangala Asia
- 20. Medicine Wheel Four Huts – Lakota Sioux North America
- 21. Solomon’s Knot- Celtic North Europe
- 22. Mongko – Hopi North America
- 23. Anahata Heart Chakra- Chakra Asia
Apples are a part of various religious traditions, and even though each of them has its own backstory, they all come together to symbolize love, desire, and abundance.
According to Greek mythology, the apple is a symbol of courtship.
A famous tale involved the Primordial Goddess of Nature, Gaia, who gave Hera apples during her wedding as a symbol of everlasting love and eternity.
Moreover, the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, presented Aphrodite with apples to win her love.
Apples have remained symbols of love ever since the 7th century B.C, when couples would exchange this fruit on their wedding day in hopes of a successful relationship.
In Norse mythology, it was a regular practice for gods and goddesses to eat golden apples from Idun’s garden- the goddess of youth– to get rid of illnesses and old age and retain youth and beauty.
In Chinese culture, apples are known to symbolize love and adoration.
An Irish love symbol, the Claddagh, is made up of three components- a crown that reflects loyalty, a heart that reflects love, and two hands that are a representation of bonded friendship.
The Claddagh symbol is linked to the Irish folktale of Claddagh, which was a village on the outer borders of the city of Galway.
Here, there was a young man named Richard who was taken hostage by pirates while he was out fishing with his family. He was then shoved into slavery.
The tale goes on to describe Richard working for a goldsmith, where he picked up on a few tricks.
Every day, he would steal a speck of gold from the goldsmith’s collection in the hopes he would make a ring for the lover that he had left behind, Margaret.
Eventually, Richard was able to save up enough specs of gold to make a ring for Margaret. He hoped that one day, he could meet his beloved.
When he finally escaped from the chambers of the goldsmith, he gave the beautiful ring to Margaret, who lovingly accepted it.
Richard and Margaret, finally free from the chains of slavery, lived happily ever after.
Cupid is best known as the god of affection, desire, and erotic love in Roman mythology.
The son of Venus (the goddess of love and beauty) and Mars, Cupid, is portrayed as a young boy playfully armed with a bow and arrow that pierces through the hearts of people to make them fall in love with each other.
Today, Cupid has become a symbol associated with Valentine’s Day.
In Greek mythology, he is commonly known as Eros and is one of the Primordial gods. He is shown to have wings, a bow, and a bunch of arrows resting on his back, ready to strike at any moment.
In art, Cupid is represented as a blindfolded boy, representing the idea that love is blind.
Long considered symbols of love and peace; doves are known to mate for a lifetime. That is why doves are a part of cooing and bowing courting rituals and have become a symbol of fidelity.
A picture of two doves together represents a love that is never-ending.
Doves are sacred creatures in Greek and Roman mythology. Moreover, there are many images of white doves perching and fluttering around goddesses of love.
Another symbol of love in the form of lyrical music, poetry, and art that has a variety of meanings and representations is the harp. It is the bridge of love that connects heaven and Earth in Celtic culture.
In Norway and Iceland, the strings of the harp are known to be a ladder that represents the climb to the higher aspects and levels of love.
Historically, the harp was a common instrument used in romantic songs because of the sweet, gentle sound it produces.
Moreover, the harp is also a crucial symbol in Christianity. Legend has it that King David would play the harp to the Lord to symbolize his devotion, love, and utter submission.
You will also find many ancient pictures of a man playing the harp to his beloved.
This beautiful white flower is associated with love, especially in the Hindu religion. It is believed that the Jasmine flower comes from the foothills of the Himalayas, which is thought of as sacred ground in India.
This makes Jasmine a sacred flower that is used in many practices across India.
In fact, there are many depictions of Hindu goddesses wearing garlands of flowers, specifically Jasmine flowers, around their necks.
The white petals of the flower represent purity, peace, and love.
A talented musician and fertility deity, Kokopelli belongs to the Native American culture.
Usually depicted with a plumed headdress as he blows his flute, it is common to see Kokopelli make an appearance in pottery, cave art, and even folklore that goes back hundreds and thousands of years.
Kokopelli always carries around a love flute that, legend says, was used by a man to attract his beloved. However, after the two lovers got married, they destroyed the flute.
Kokopelli is used to represent a range of elements, such as fertility, marriage, courtship, and of course, love. You will find Kokopelli depicted on many pottery bowls in the Southwest.
However, the depictions may not be too clear or may have an abstract spin with geometric shapes used here and there.
8. Love Knot
One of the oldest symbols that portray eternal love, the Celtic love knot is an interlacing design that does not have any beginning or end.
It looks like a knotted infinity sign. The love knot symbolizes the binding and coming together of two souls. It first originated in the 3rd century B.C and started showing up in works of art from the Roman Empire.
Later around 450 A.D, the Celtic love knot was used by Christians to decorate illuminated manuscripts. It was also used to design high crosses.
Today, the love knot is a common design used for wedding rings. It portrays endless love and friendship, almost like a promise of eternity.
9. Maple Leaf
An ancient symbol of love, the beautiful maple leaf, is commonly seen in China and Japan.
Usually compared to the sweet sap from its tree that eventually produces maple syrup, maple leaves are known for their sweetness and are linked to the idea of love in everyday life.
Maple branches are used by the stock to make its nest. Hence, the leaf is also a symbol of fertility and is linked to the excitement of giving birth to babies.
The maple leaf is a common symbol used in Japanese ukiyo-e art- a type of woodblock print and painting that became extremely popular during the Edo period.
During this time, artists became consumed in depicting the sensory pleasures of life. The maple leaf was commonly drawn and included in most art pieces.
Settlers in North America would leave maple leaves at the foot of their beds in order to get rid of demons and allow love and sexual pleasure to fill the air.
10. Osram Ne Nsoromma
Adinkra is the name of a cotton cloth that is commonly made in West Africa. It is decorated with traditional Akal symbols that portray famous proverbs.
These proverbs are usually very meaningful and deep- no single word can match up to their level. One of these symbols contains Osram Ne Nsoromma.
Osram Ne Nsoromma consists of a star and half a moon. Together, the star and moon portray feelings of harmony present in a man and woman’s relationship when they are deeply in love.
It is also commonly thought of as the symbol of love and affection.
Roses have been used as symbols in a multitude of societies for centuries. They are ancient symbols of beauty, love, and romance.
In Roman, Greek, and Polish languages, roses mean pink or red. Moreover, the rose was used by goddesses Isis and Aphrodite, making it a sacred element in history.
It was also used as a symbol and representation of the Virgin Mary. Roses were associated with the goddesses of love, Aphrodite and Venus, especially by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
In Rome, it was a common custom for a rose to be placed on the doorstep in case of a secret meeting or if people were discussing confidential matters and did not want to be disturbed.
Early Christians also associated the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Jesus Christ. However, leaders of the time did not want to adopt this association of the rose as it was also linked to Roman excesses and pagan rituals.
Eventually, the blood of the Christian martyrs was represented by the red rose. Roses were also used in connection with the Virgin Mary.
Each of the following roses has a different meaning:
- Yellow rose: Joy and love.
- Red rose: Passion and love.
- Pink rose: True, everlasting love.
- White rose: Purity and innocence.
The hard casing of a shell protects the precious pearls inside, which is why the shell has become a symbol of the protective kind of love.
It has a different symbolism in different cultures. The Romans considered seashells to be a symbol of regeneration. It was also used in relation to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility, is often shown as emerging from a scallop shell, especially after she is formed by the foam of the shell that carries itself ashore.
Moreover, the conch shell has been linked to hearts filled with love and the process of awakening the heart of the faithful in ancient Hinduism.
The seashell is used as a representation of love and fertility, especially amongst the Native Americans.
White swans have been found throughout time and history in different parts of the world. These beautiful birds are eternal symbols of love as they portray affection and devotion.
In most pictures and depictions, swans can be seen with their beaks touching or making the shape of a heart with their necks.
That is why in modern times, many people propose in gardens surrounding lakes where swans can be seen and photographed.
Moreover, since swans are known to mate for life, they are a popular image of everlasting love. They are also used in association with the ancient Greeks and Roman goddesses of love.
Swans are usually associated with love, grace, purity, beauty, and sincerity. They are also commonly associated with the Virgin Mary.
14. Rose Quartz
A long-lasting symbol of love and affection, the rose quartz has been around since 600 B.C. It is commonly associated with ancient legends from Greece, Egypt, and China.
There are legends and myths that surround the rose quartz that, together with meditation and intention, the rose quartz has the ability to produce self-love in one’s self.
Moreover, it can attract the vibes and romantic relationships that one may be seeking during that point in life.
In the modern era, the rose quartz is also known as a “love magnet.” The Crystal Therapist, Alexandria Barker, says that it is a symbol of unconditional love and serenity.
The rose quartz helps open up one’s heart, allowing feelings of healing, love, and peace. Some people also wear the rose quartz as a necklace around their neck to encourage feelings of self-love and acceptance.
They believe that it can help attract the vibes and energies that they are searching for.
15. Ribbons, Laces, and Frills
Ribbons, laces, and frills have a history of being connected to feelings of romance, especially since knighthood when the knight would ride into battle with a ribbon or scarf that was given to him by his beloved as a symbol of love and good luck.
Did you know that in the dictionary, the word “lace” is derived from the Latin word, which means “snare” or “noose.”
In ancient times, women would drop their handkerchiefs covered with laces and frills to show to a man that she was interested in him and wished for him to approach her.
Any man who picked up a lady’s handkerchief would have an excuse to interact with her. Women would use this technique to attract a man’s attention, giving him a chance to entice some romance.
Moreover, today, chocolate boxes and valentine’s day cards are commonly decorated with frills and ribbons.
A common image that you may have come across is that of clasped hands.
These hands represent the hands of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and were representations of the friendship and loyalty that existed between their respected countries, Germany and England.
In ancient times, when a man was proposing to a woman, he would ask for her hand. This has become a common practice even today, especially for men who ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Since then, hands have become a common symbol of love and marriage.
17. The Lovers- Tarots Symbol
The Lovers are portrayed as a naked man and woman together under the wings of an angel. Positioned right beside an apple tree, there is a snake hanging from the branch of the tree.
A mountain stands in the background. Both the lovers, when standing upright, symbolize love, harmony, relationship, and agreement. However, if reversed, the card symbolizes disagreement and imbalance.
The symbol of The Lovers shows two circles that interlock- one of these circles contains the sun while the other contains a crescent moon. This shows the connection between a man and a woman.
18. Copper- Alchemy Symbol
The Copper symbol shows a huge X shape with three horizontal lines that intersect it at the median point, along with the upper and lower thirds.
The two horizontal lines at the top and bottom are flanked by tiny circles that are not filled. The line that intersects at the median point is smaller and flanked by diamond shapes that are not filled.
The symbol itself represents copper. It is associated with Venus and is a symbol of love and femininity. Almost 10,000 years ago, civilizations believed that a connection existed between heaven and Earth, and between metals and planets.
Copper was associated with the Roman goddess, who was known for love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity, and desire.
19. Padme Lotus- Ashtamangala Asia
The Padme, or Lotus, is a symbolism of purity, illumination, love, growth, and transformation. A lotus with eight petals represents peace and harmony, while a lotus with one thousand petals represents enlightenment and self-love.
The seed of a lotus or a small lotus bud symbolizes potential.
A common Buddhist mantra is “om mane padme,” which is translated into “the jewel in the lotus.” This means that each and every human being present on Earth has the potential for enlightenment, growth, and self-love.
The color of the Padme varies, and with it, so does its meaning and what it represents. For example, a white lotus is the symbol of purity and spiritual perfection, while a red lotus shows love and passion.
A small lotus bud that is blue in color shows intelligence and communication, while a pink lotus shows excellence.
20. Medicine Wheel Four Huts – Lakota Sioux North America
The medicine wheel has seven stones that symbolize seven stars, arrows, or human characteristics. These characteristics may include fear, courage, love, and sorrow.
However, the last three characteristics remain unknown to man. Together, these are a reflection of human nature or the true nature of man.
The four tents that are present in the perimeter of the wheel are evenly spaced, and they symbolize the four predestined paths.
These include the path where one has far sight, one is innocent, one will turn out to be introspective in life, and one that will grow up to be clever and knowledgeable.
21. Solomon’s Knot- Celtic North Europe
The Solomon’s knot, a Celtic symbol, is thought to represent the divine union of man and god. It is an ancient symbol that dates all the way back to the stone-age.
Interestingly, this symbol does not only belong to the Celts- it has been used in other civilizations as well.
In later years, the knot was associated with King Solomon. Since the knot does not have any start or end, it is viewed as a symbol of immortality and eternity and is linked to the idea of “forever.”
Moreover, the design of the two figures shows that they are entwined with each other. This is a representation of everlasting love, devotion, and loyalty.
22. Mongko – Hopi North America
The Mongko is a common symbol that is associated with the Hopi spiritual law. It is usually a symbol of love, respect, and harmony.
The symbol represents a physical object that is associated with the highest spiritual power. In fact, many believe that it is divine.
The Mongko features two horns, wood, feathers, and corn- all of which symbolize the Earth and its wonderful creations, including the plants, animals, water, and humanity.
23. Anahata Heart Chakra- Chakra Asia
The Anahata, which stands for “unstruck,” is situated in the heart. It is commonly referred to as Dharma in ancient Buddhism.
The Anahata Heart Chakra is a representation of love, equilibrium, and well-being. It shows the image of a lotus that has twelve petals in total.
Moreover, the Anahata Heart Chakra is made up of a “yantra.” A yantra stands for two triangles that intersect each other and symbolize the eternal reunion of man and woman.
Most Anahata Heart Chakras are green in color today.
Love and affection have been depicted in different ways by each culture that has existed throughout history.
Many of these representations are rooted in mythology and folklore. Today, symbols of love are commonly used to express affection in daily life.
See also: Top 11 Flowers That Symbolize Love
Header image courtesy: Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels