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Following are some of the more common symbols found on gravestones and their meanings.

agnus AGNUS DEI symbol meaning the Lamb of God



 alpha & omega.jpg ALPHA and OMEGA The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet symbolizing the beginning and the end.



 American Legion.jpg AMERICAN LEGION The deceased was a member of the American Legion, an organization for veterans.



 anchor.jpg ANCHOR A symbol of hope, or the deceased was a seaman. A Masonic symbol of well-grounded hope.



 angel.jpg ANGEL or ANGELS, a guide to Heaven.



 arch.jpg ARCH symbolizing a triumphant entry into Heaven or victory over death.



 arrow.jpg ARROW or ARROWS symbolizing mortality or martyrdom.



 beehive.jpg BEEHIVE A symbol of abundance in the Promised Land or piety or domestic virture or faith.



BELL A symbol of religious faith or religion.

 bird.jpg BIRD, symbol of eternal life, spirituality, Messenger of God, or peace



 book.jpg BOOK or BIBLE, a symbol of the Divine Word or the deceased's lifetime accomplishments (as written in the Book of Life)



 column1.jpg BROKEN or DRAPED COLUMN A symbol of early death and or grief.



 flower buds.jpg BUDS A symbol of renewal of life or the loss of a young life if on a child's gravestone.



 burning flame.jpg BURNING FLAME, a symbol of eternal life or resurrection



 butterfly.jpg BUTTERFLY, a symbol of resurrection



 Celtic cross.jpg CELTIC CROSS A symbol of faith and eternity.



 chain & links.jpg CHAIN with THREE LINKS, symbolizing that the deceased was a member of the Odd Fellows; the letters stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth

CIRCLE, a symbol of eternity, life never ending.

 clouds.jpg CLOUDS, a symbol of the Divine abode, Heaven



 column2.jpg COLUMN A symbol that the deceased lived a noble life. A drapped column symbolizes mourning and grief.



 cross2.jpg CROSS, a symbol of faith and resurrection. Many military markers, in particular for Veterans of World War I, have a cross etched into the gravestone.



 crown.jpg CROWN, a symbol of glory of life after death



 cypress tree.jpg CYPRESS TREES or CYPRESS BRANCHES, symbolizes hope.



 dove.jpg DOVE A symbol of love, purity, ressurection and or the Holy Spirit.



 DRAPERY or PALL, symbolizes mourning and or mortality.

 eagle1.jpg EAGLE, DOUBLE-HEADED, symbolizes that the deceased was a 32nd degree Mason.



 eagle2.jpg EAGLE with INITIALS F.O.E., symbolized that the deceased was a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.



 eagle3.jpg EAGLE Many gravestones of Civil War veterans were engraved with images of eagles.



 female figure.jpg FEMALE FIGURE, usually depicted in a sorrowing posture, a symbol of sorrow and grief.



 hand.jpg FINGER, pointing downward, a symbol of "calling the earth to witness.
FINGER, pointing upward, most common, symbolizing the pathway to Heaven or the deceased found Heavenly reward.


 fish.jpg FISH, symbolizing spiritual nourishment, fath, or deceased was a Christian.



 fleu de lys.jpg FLEUR de LYS A symbol of the Holy Trinity or perfection or of royal blood.



 flower.jpg FLOWER A symbol of immortality.



 bird2.jpg FLYING BIRD, a symbol of rebirth.



 G.A.R.jpg G.A.R., symbolizing that the deceased was a member of the G.A.R., the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization for men who fought and were honorably dischared from the Union Army, Civil War. Usually found as a flag holder beside the gravestone of the deceased.

 garland.jpg GARLAND, symbolizes victory over death.



 grapes.jpg GRAPES A symbol of the Blood of Christ.



 GRIM REAPER A symbol found on many early gravestones, meaning the inevitability of death.

 hands2.jpg HANDS, CLASPED, a symbol meaning farewell and the hope of meeting again in eternity.


 HARP A symbol of hope.


 heart.jpg HEART A symbol of love, devotion, joy, and/or mortality.



 heart3.jpg HEART in HAND, a symbol used by either the I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) and Masons which means the deceased was of a charitable nature.



 hourglass.jpg HOURGLASS, a symbol of the swift passage of time, as in the shortness of life on earth.


 IVY A symbol of either eternal life or undying affection.


 lamb.jpg LAMB, a symbol meaning innocence; used primarily on an infant's or a child's gravestone.



 laurel leaves.jpg LAUREL LEAVES or LAUREL WREATH, symbolizes triumph over death or ever green the memory of the deceased.



 LILY, a symbol of purity and/or chastity.

 Lily of the Valley.jpg LILY of the VALLEY, a symbol of rebirth.



 LOTUS A symbol of purity, resurrection, and/or spiritual revelation.

 mason.jpg MASONIC COMPASS & SET SQUARE symbolizes that the deceased was a Freemason.



 MEMENTO MORI, a depiction which included bones, a skull, and an hourglass, symbolizing death and serves the living as a reminder of one's mortality. Usually found on older gravestones of the early 1800's.

 moon.jpg MOON A symbol of death, rebirth, or victory. A moon with seven stars, the letter "R", and a dove symbolizes that the deceased was a member of the Daughters of Rebekah, an auxillary of the I.O.O.F. fraternal organization.


 MYRTLE LEAVES, a symbol of undying love and/or peace.

 oak.jpg OAK LEAVES or OAK TREE A symbol of faith and virture and/or endurance.



 obelisk.jpg OBELISK A symbol quite popular during the 1880's through the 1930's, meaning rebirth, connection between earth and Heaven. The orb at the top of an obelisk symbolizes a celestrial body and the deceased's Heavenly reward. It also symbolizes faith. Some obelisks have an urn instead of an orb at the top. See "urn" below.


 OLIVE BRANCH A symbol of peace, forgiveness, one's humanity.

OPEN GATES, a symbol of afterlife and the deceased's soul entering into Heaven.

POPPY, a symbol meaning sleep.

 plow.jpg PLOW, a symbol meaning the harvest, the reaping of one's life.



 PYRAMID A symbol meaning resurrection, eternal life, enlightenment, spiritual attainment. During the early part of the 1900's pyramids were quite popular with the general public's fascination with Egyptology.

RAINBOW A symbol of union, fullfillment of the promise of resurrection.

ROPE CIRLE, a symbol of eternity.

 rose.jpg ROSE or ROSES, a symbol of love, victory, triumph, and/or purity.



 SCALLOP SHELL A symbol of resurrection, life everlasting, the pilgrimage of one's life, and/or baptism of one's soul.

 scythe.jpg SCYTHE A symbol of a life cut short, death, or the final harvest.



 SEVERED TREE BRANCH, a symbol of mortality.

 sheaf of wheat.jpg SHEAF of WHEAT, a symbol of old age, a fruitful life.



 shepherd's crook.jpg SHEPHERD'S CROOK, a symbol of charity; often used by the I.O.O.F. representing the opening of earth to Heaven.



 SKELETON, a symbol used in the late 1700's and early to mid-1800's designating death and life's brevity on earth.

 winged skull.jpg SKULL, a symbol used in the early to mid-1800's representing mortality and or pentence. A winged skull meant that the deceased ascended into Heaven.


 cherub.jpg SLEEPING CHERUB, a symbol of innocence used primarily on an infant's or a child's gravestone.



 star.jpg STAR, a symbol of Divine guidance. A 5-pointed star represents the Star of Bethlehelm. A 6-pointed star represents creation.



 STAR, UPSIDE DOWN A symbol of the Order of the Eastern Star, an organization for the wives of Freemasons.

 sun1.jpg SUN, RISING, a symbol of renewed life or resurrection



 SUN, SETTING, a symbol of death



 SUN, SHINING, a symbol of everlasting life

 SUN, WINGED, a symbol of spirituality and/or everlasting life

SWALLOW A symbol of motherhood, the spirit of children, or a symbol of consolation.

 sword.jpg SWORD, symbolizes the deceased's military service

SWORD, BROKEN, symbolizes a life cut short

SWORDS, CROSSED, symbolizes that the deceased died in battle

SWORD, INVERTED, symbolizes relinquishment of power, victory

SWORD, SHEATHED, symbolized temperance

 tree.jpg TREE A symbol of life, knowleged, the fall of man through sin, or human fraility

TREE, SPROUTING A symbol of life everlasting

TREE STUMP A symbol of a life interrupted

TREE TRUNK A symbol of the frevity of one's life. The number of broken branches indicate the deceased family members who were interred at that site.

 tree2.jpg TREE TRUNK or TREE, LEANING A symbol of a short life interrupted; a symbol of mourning



 TRIANGLE The symbol of the Holy Trinity.

TRIQUET, 3 interlocking circles or triangles The symbol of the Holy Trinity; eternity.

TRUMPET A symbol announcing the resurrection of the deceased's soul entering into Heaven.

 urn.jpg URN A symbol for the soul, immortality or penitence.



 VIOLET A symbol of humility.

 weeping willow.jpg WEEPING WILLOW A symbol of mourning, grief, sorrow, lamentation.



 WHEAT A symbol meaning the Body of Christ.

WHEEL, sybolizes the cycle of life, enlightenment, spiritual power.

 winged face.jpg WINGED FACE A symbol of the soul in flight (normally to Heaven); at times an effigy of the deceased soul.



 WINGED HOURGLASS, a symbol representing the fleetness of life; mortality. Commonly used in the late 1700's and early to mid-1800's.

WINGED SKULL A symbol of the flight of the soul from mortal man.

 Woodman Symbol.jpg WOODMEN of the WORLD A symbol designating that the deceased was a member of the Woodmen of the World fraternal organization.



 WREATH, a symbol of victory

 wreath.jpg WREATH of ROSES, a symbol of Heavenly joy and bliss

WREATH on SKULL, a symbol of victory of death over life



 Written & Submitted by Sharon R. Becker, 2007


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