Ancient History > Ancient Symbols > Top 23 Symbols of Respect & Their Meanings

Top 23 Symbols of Respect & Their Meanings

Buddhist monks bow in respect

Respect is one of those rare feelings that you inadvertently expect everywhere in your life.

Be it your personal relationships or professional ones, be it from a friend or a stranger, be it when you’re a child or an elder, you always want the respect of others. 

Even when you don’t want someone’s friendship, love, trust, truth, etc., you at least expect some respect. Now the tricky thing about respect is that there are so many ways to show it.

The feeling can manifest in many ways. 

For instance, you might not want the truth from someone but if you want respect, then for some people, that automatically means being honest and forthright.

For some people, respect may translate into being loyal and trustworthy. 

Because if you try and define respect, it always comes out as admiration for someone based on their skills, achievements, or qualities.

It also comes out as having a high regard for someone and taking into consideration their feelings or rights. Considering the complex nature of this feeling or action, it’s not always easy to show it.

So, here are the top 23 most important symbols of respect to give you some inspiration.

1. Daffodil (Universal)

A daffodil as a symbol of respect.
A daffodil flower
Image courtesy: piqsels.com

When it comes to showing your feelings through flowers, most people are only aware of the rose or tulip for showing feelings of love.

However, there are tons of other flowers out there which hold different meanings. 

Daffodils, in particular, are effective at symbolizing respect and regard for someone. They can show that you recognize and acknowledge someone’s skills and abilities.

As a result, they are a great choice to give someone you admire. Besides that, since the bright and colorful flowers come in the spring, they also represent new beginnings and rebirth.

2. Red (Universal)

The color red is a symbol of respect.
Red fabric
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Colors also tend to hold various different meanings. Moreover, different colors can signify something else within different places or cultures.

One color that universally represents respect is red. This bright color symbolizes a lot of things, from love and passion to anger and danger as well. 

However, its bright hue and nature can invoke a sense of admiration and regard which can then be used to show your respect and consideration for someone or something.

The color is quite energizing as well and can help strengthen the bonds between people you admire through your strong feelings.

3. Mountain Lion (Native American)

A mountain lion as a symbol of respect.
A mountain lion on a rock
Image courtesy: piqsels.com

In the animal kingdom, the mountain lion is one of the most respected animals. The lion is generally seen as a very powerful animal, a hunter at the top of the pyramid, a strong predator, and so on. 

Because of all its qualities and abilities, the lion is regarded as a fearful animal and automatically instills a lot of respect.

People or even other animals are forced to acknowledge the lion’s powerful abilities, and this also sparks admiration.

In the Native American culture, mountain lions are revered and looked upon for guidance and strength.  

4. Buffalo (Native American)

A buffalo as a symbol of respect.
A buffalo in a field
Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Another animal that is greatly respected among the Native Americans is the buffalo or bison.

They consider the buffalo as a symbol of strength and power. It was believed to unite tribes and bring good fortune to the people. 

The animal is featured in many Native American traditions and legends. It is considered an earthly representation of kindness, bravery, strength, and respect.

The buffalo also supports a large stature which relays a strong presence and commands respect itself. 

5. Hand + Heart (Universal)

A hand and heart together as a symbol of respect.
Boy holding a heart
Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

If you search for symbols of respect, one sign that will appear repeatedly is the hand and heart.

They often appear in different combinations. Sometimes, there are two hands forming a heart. Sometimes, there is one hand holding a heart, and so on. 

Nevertheless, the hand and heart combo are a strong symbol of respect. The hand can represent the acknowledgment of the other person’s skills and special abilities, and the heart can symbolize the admiration resulting from that acknowledgment. 

Moreover, in some cultures, one way of showing respect is by placing a hand on the heart to show acceptance and consideration. The hand and heart combination can signify that physical gesture of respect as well.

6. Thyme (Ancient Rome)

Thyme besides a fig.
A branch of thyme besides a fig
Photo by Gaby Yerden on Unsplash

Thyme was already a popular herb long before the Romans came about. It was commonly used for its medicinal properties and also carried a nice scent.

In Ancient Rome, people continued to use the herb for all these purposes. However, it also became a sign of respect, especially among the soldiers. 

The soldiers would give each other bunches of thyme to show respect for each other. What’s more, the herb was also strongly associated with courage and bravery as well.

During this time, people also considered thyme to have powerful protective properties. They would burn it to purify their homes and temples. 

7. Tiger (China)

A tiger as a symbol of respect.
A tiger as a symbol of respect
Image courtesy: pikrepo.com

Within the Chinese tradition, a tiger is one of the most important and even sacred animals. They are often portrayed all over in Chinese culture, on different occasions, in various places.

Some people even put tigers on the graves of their loved ones as they believe tigers ward off evil spirits. Nevertheless, tigers are important in China. 

They represent a lot of things from ferocity, bravery, courage, power, strength, confidence, determination, and much more.

Because of all this, the symbol of a tiger is a great sign of respect within their culture. The tiger is considered to be the king of all beasts. 

8. Iris (Ancient Greece)

An iris flower as a symbol of respect.
A purple iris flower
Image by Elsa Mayfair from Pixabay

Many kinds of flowers help communicate various messages. However, an Iris is particularly special for this purpose.

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow and a messenger for Hera and Zeus. She would often carry messages which is why it’s not a surprise that the iris flower has some meanings of its own. 

Since it comes in many colors, it can hold various meanings. For instance, blue irises can inspire trust, white irises can represent purity, etc.

Purple irises, in particular, are known for symbolizing passion, wisdom, royalty, and respect. Therefore, they make the perfect gift for someone you respect. 

9. Purple Orchids (Universal)

A purple orchid as a symbol of respect.
A purple orchid flower
Image by Petra Keßler from Pixabay

Another flower that strongly shows respect is the orchid. In fact, just like purple irises represent respect, so do purple orchids specifically.

Orchids also tend to come in various shades and with different meanings. Yellow orchids can represent friendship, while pink orchids can show femininity

Purple orchids tend to symbolize respect, admiration, royalty, and dignity. They are the perfect choice for a mentor you love and admire or any other person you deeply respect.

These flowers can help communicate your sincere feelings. 

10. Elephant (China)

Young elephant at a watering hole.
Young elephant at a watering hole
Image courtesy: maxpixel.net
/ CC0

In Chinese tradition, another animal that is highly revered and considered a huge sign of respect is the elephant.

Elephants are truly majestic creatures. Besides their enormous size, they possess so many amazing qualities that make them admirable for everyone. 

Their faithful and loyal nature make them a trustworthy companion, be it for other elephants or even humans.

They possess a lot of power and strength, and as a result, they hold important positions in many cultures and communities.

In China specifically, elephants are seen as a noble creature that symbolizes wisdom, strength, and respect. 

11. Bears (Universal)

A bear as a symbol of respect.
A brown bear in the forest
Image courtesy: pikrepo.com

Bears are also strong symbols of respect, but for many different reasons. Like other animals mentioned, bears also hold a lot of power.

They have a very raw and wild strength which makes them big dangerous hunters. Their raw power is one of the reasons behind their admiration and respect. 

Furthermore, bears also command respect as they instill fear into anyone who faces them. The massive animals can be incredibly terrifying.

They are also very protective of their loved ones. On the other hand, bears can also inspire a sense of confidence and fearlessness to help you take on the challenges in your life. 

12. Skunk (Universal)

A skunk as a symbol of respect.
A skunk as a symbol of respect
Image of sipa from Pixabay

Despite their bad reputation, skunks are an important symbol of respect as well. Even if they don’t have the brute strength of bears and lions, they have their own set of unique abilities that makes them so admirable and respectful.

A skunk is known for being a calm and non-violent animal. It avoids confrontations and only releases its foul spray as a last defense when it runs out of other options.

What’s more, a skunk represents not only respect but also self-respect. It encourages believing in yourself and working on your strengths. 

13. Handshake (Universal)

Shaking hands as a symbol of respect.
Two people shaking hands
Image courtesy: pikrepo.com

The handshake is a universal symbol for many things. It acts as a way of greeting someone. It can signify that both people trust each other. Likewise, the handshake can also show respect.

Clasping each other’s hands depicts understanding and mutual respect. The act shows that both parties acknowledge each other’s presence and special qualities. 

This helps build understanding and inspires admiration. It is a classic symbol of respect and also shows a connection of the hearts, which relays regard for each other.

Other than that, the peaceful gesture also communicates sincerity to one another and is often used to seal a sacred pact or bond as well.

14. Crown (Universal)

Another symbol that universally translates into respect and admiration is a crown. A crown is a symbolic head adornment worn by deities, monarchs, or essentially people with power.

It represents a high position, glory, sovereignty, and even immortality at times. People who wear crowns tend to exercise a lot of power, and they hold a lot of strength over others. 

As a result, they are always held in high regard and instantly earn the respect of others. Therefore, just the crown itself has come to symbolize that respect and consideration that its wearer typically receives. 

15. Bowing (Japan)

Japanese business woman bowing as a symbol of respect.
Japanese business woman bowing
Photo 31689435 / Bowing © Shannon Fagan | Dreamstime.com

While bowing is more of a gesture than a symbol, it is a very big representation of respect and, therefore, too important to not include it in the list.

While the act of bowing can symbolize respect in many parts of the world today, its roots go back to Japan, where it is still considered a major symbol of respect, intertwined into their culture and daily lives. 

In fact, it is such a big deal that there are many factors to bowing as well. For instance, if two people are bowing to each other, the person with a lower status should have a deeper bow than the person with a higher status, or else it is considered disrespectful. 

Similarly, the duration of the bow can reflect the level of respect as well. Bowing is somewhat common in other Asian cultures as well, but it is usually limited to elders, ancestors, or special occasions. 

16. The Cross (Christianity)

The cross as a symbol of respect.
A cross
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Religious elements tend to naturally be seen as crucial symbols of respect. However, within Christianity, one element in particular that represents respect, reverence, and a lot of importance is the cross. 

For most Christians, a cross is a common object in their life, be it in the form of a cross necklace, a cross wall hanging, or even a physical gesture depicting the cross.

For them, it represents the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ for his people, and therefore, it holds an important place and is a strong sign of respect. 

17. Purple (Universal)

The color purple as a symbol of respect.
The color purple
Image courtesy: publicdomainpictures.net / CC0 Public Domain

Another color that can remind you of respect is purple. As mentioned earlier, while red is a color that shows respect, purple is more of a color that commands respect. Purple is considered to be a very royal, dignified, and luxurious color. 

It all goes back to its origins where the color was very expensive to obtain, and so, only royals and nobles could afford to wear it.

The subsequent royal association has continued to this day. So, if you want to command respect and exude royalty, and garner admiration, purple is a good color to use.

18. Rainbow (Universal)

A rainbow flag as a symbol of respect.
A rainbow flag.
Image courtesy: piqsels.com

Rainbows hold many different meanings in different places. Today, most commonly, a rainbow is closely associated with the LGBTQ movement.

Moreover, it also represents respect. When it comes to respect, it is not always about admiration or affection. 

Respect also means acceptance and regard. That’s why a rainbow depicts that acceptance and regard for members of the LGBTQ community. It shows that a person accepts their identity or life choices and respects them for it.

As discussed earlier, respect can manifest in many different ways. 

19. Camellia (Universal)

A white camellia flower as a symbol of respect.
A white camellia flower.
Photo by www.tribalvideo.com Tribal Video on Unsplash

Camellias are a beautiful flower that can be a lovely addition to any garden. However, there’s more to these flowers than their pretty petals.

Camellias represent love, affection, and admiration, which can encompass feelings of respect and regard for the other person as well. 

Like most other flowers, camellias also bloom in several colors, and these different colors can represent different meanings.

A white camellia is excellent for showing respect and admiration, while red camellias are more associated with romantic love and passion.

20. Emerald (Ancient Egypt)

An emerald stone necklace as a symbol of respect.
Jewelry with an emerald stone.
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Similar to colors and flowers, even different gemstones can hold different meanings. The emerald, in particular, is a symbol of respect.

The deep green beautiful stone is associated with many positive feelings and emotions, such as wisdom, protection, spiritual awareness, and love and respect.

Ancient Greeks and Romans also associated this stone with the Goddess Venus, and therefore, it is a strong representer of love and admiration.

Emeralds are also associated with integrity and loyalty. It promotes balance in various aspects of life and encourages peace and happiness

21. Monstera (China)

A monstera plant as a symbol of respect.
Leaves of a monstera plant
Image courtesy: uihere.com

Generally, the monstera plant is associated with suffocation because of its overwhelming vines and roots. However, within the Chinese culture, a monstera plant is closely associated with honor, longevity, and respect. 

It is especially used as a gift for elders and people you respect to honor their relationships and wish them a long life.

Even if it’s not for an elder or a respected person, it serves as a great gift for someone who is heavily involved in their family history and respects their roots. 

22. Scepter (European)

Scepter, as a symbol of respect.
Scepter
Image by Bielan BNeres from Pixabay

Similar to a crown, a scepter is another object that symbolizes power and admiration and commands a lot of respect.

A scepter is a wand or ceremonial staff used by kings and other monarchs. It is often decorated with precious jewels and depicts the power of the wielder.

Since it holds so much power, it is seen with a lot of respect and regard. 

23. Eternal Knot (Tibetan Buddhism)

The Endless Knot.
The Endless Knot is a symbol of birth, death and rebirth in Buddhism 
dinarpoz via Pixabay

The eternal knot symbol is one of the eight auspicious symbols from Tibetan Buddhism. Also called the endless knot or glorious knot, the eternal knot consists of a pattern with interlocking lines with no end or beginning.

That’s why it is referred to as the eternal knot. Moreover, just like the eternal nature of the knot, the symbol represents the eternal compassion, love, and admiration of the Buddha. 

The knot is also associated with wisdom, the interconnectedness of everything in the world, and even the endless cycle of suffering.

Some people use the eternal knot symbol in greeting cards and different ornaments to show their respect and admiration. 

Final Thoughts

In most cultures and communities, respect is something that is shown through action rather than through symbols and imagery.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that these signs and symbols don’t hold power of their own. 

Therefore, the next time you want to show respect or even command respect from people around you, take inspiration from these symbols of respect. 

References:

  1. Animal Symbolism: Animals and Their Meanings. https://skullbliss.com/blogs/news/animal-symbolism 
  2. Top 10 Animals That Represent Strength. https://www.richardalois.com/symbolism/10-animals-that-represent-strength 
  3. Sacred Symbols and Their Meanings. https://symbolsage.com/sacred-symbols-and-meanings/ 
  4. Plant Symbolism Guide: 31 Plants for Every Personality. https://www.proflowers.com/blog/plant-symbolism-guide/ 
  5. The History of Thyme. https://www.earth.com/earthpedia-articles/the-history-of-thyme-plus-uses-of-thyme/#:~:text=Soldiers%20would%20exchange%20thyme%20as,of%20courage%20for%20many%20people. 
  6. Eternal Knot Symbol. https://tnp.org/eternal-knot-symbol/ 

Header image courtesy: maxpixel.net / CC0.

Cite this article

The Editors of Give Me History, "Top 23 Symbols of Respect & Their Meanings," Give Me History, July 8, 2021, https://www.givemehistory.com/symbols-of-respect.

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