12 Symbols Whose Meaning Has Been Interpreted in a Completely Wrong Way

Signs and symbols are so ingrained in people's minds that we often don't even think about their origins. For example, the letters this very sentence is made of.

Bright Side has some more "bricks" for your picture of the world. The last symbol was especially surprising to us.

Card suits

Suits are most likely stylized pictures of certain objects: spades are swords, hearts are goblets, clubs are rods or staffs, and diamonds are coins.

Nobody really knows why these symbols are used on cards. Playing cards came to Europe from China. It is possible that there these objects stood for different estates: the noble (rods), the clergy (goblets), the merchants (coins), and the military (swords).

Skull and bones

The skull (sometimes with bones) is not just a symbol of death but also a symbol of eternal life and revival because bones don't decompose when a person dies. That's why in Europe this sign can be seen on cemetery gates, icons, and paintings of famous artists.

The pirate symbol is not connected with this story. By the way, pirates didn't have a common flag, and Black Jack was the sign of the pirate Edward England. The skull and bones symbol was popularized by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island.


The symbol from the TV series Charmed exists in real life and has a very ancient history. It is called a triquetra.

In the Bronze Age in Europe, it was used to mark the position of the Sun in the sky (sunrise, zenith, and sunset) and also the lunar phases. It also stood for the cycles of nature. The symbol was popular among the Celts and the Scandinavians.

Play, pause, and stop

It's not really certain who created these signs. According to one version, it was the artist Wassily Kandinsky; according to the other, it was Rain Wersem, the creator of one of the first cassette players.

The logic of the signs "stop" and "play" is this: a square is a stable form, and a triangle symbolizes movement. The "pause" sign evolved from the musical sign "сaesura," used to split musical phrases. The "record" button is red so that nobody presses it accidentally and erases something important.


Ichthus is an ancient symbol of Christ. The first letters of the words Ἰησοὺς Χριστὸς Θεoς ῾Υιὸς Σωτήρ (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) make up the word ΙΧΘΥΣ, which is Greek for "fish."

During the times of ostracism, Christians couldn't write the name of Jesus openly. That's why they came up with the word "Ichthus," and they pictured a fish. You might have seen this symbol on car trunks. Most likely, this car belonged to a Christian person.

The red cross

If you think that the symbol of The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) resembles the flag of Switzerland, then you are right. The idea to set up an organization that would help the sick and the wounded for free was created in Switzerland.

However, the symbol wasn't very successful: Muslim countries didn't want to use a sign that was associated with Christianity, so a special symbol was created for them — the Red Crescent.

Israel couldn't use any of the symbols, which is why they made another religiously neutral sign — the Red Crystal.

Barbershop poles

This symbol that looks like a red, blue, and white lollipop is a symbol of barbershops in Europe, America, and some Asian countries.

In the past, every barber used to be a doctor to some extent — he could provide you with some bloodletting or remove your tooth. So the red color symbolized blood, and the white color symbolized bandages. Not a very bright story. Later, they started adding the blue color.

Star of Life

The blue Star of Life is a symbol for urgent medical help in the US. You can also see it in other countries.

Each of the 6 rays of the star stands for one of the functions of urgent medical help: detection, reporting, response, on-the-scene care, care in transit, and transit to definitive care. In the center, there is the Rod of Asclepius, the ancient Greek god of medicine.


According to an Irish legend, a blacksmith named Jack made a deal with the devil. After his death, his soul wasn't allowed into paradise or hell. His soul roamed the world, using a lantern to light his path. The lantern was made from a turnip.

The Celts later made a tradition of putting such a lantern on the windowsill to help lost souls find their way to purgatory. Only much later were turnips substituted by pumpkins, which look far more attractive.

Olympic rings

It is well known that the colored Olympic rings symbolize the 5 continents: yellow is Asia, red is America, black is Africa, blue is Australia, and green is Europe.

But it turns out that the co-founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, didn't intend for this meaning. In fact, the point of the symbol is that you can make the flags of all countries using the colors of the rings and the white color of the background. This legend is much more attractive, don't you think?


The Hamsa, also known as the Hand of Fatima, is an amulet popular in the Jewish and Arabic cultures.

Most likely, there is a connection between the Hamsa and the palm-shaped mano pantea amulet, which is found in ancient Rome and Egypt. This symbol later appeared in Christianity. It was transformed into a symbol of blessing and the sign of benediction.

Cross of Saint Peter

This symbol is considered to be a strong anti-Christian sign. However, it has a different side too: according to the legend, Apostle Peter was going to be crucified just like Jesus was. But he said that he didn't deserve to die this way, so he asked to be crucified upside down.

This is how the Cross of Saint Peter became the symbol of humility and patience. So don't be surprised if you see an inverted cross in a Christian cathedral.

Share This Article