25 Modern Symbols That Have Lost Their Original Meaning

Modern symbols can say more about a person, a group of people, an organization, or even a religion and political ideology than a thousand words. Most of us are perfectly aware of what certain symbols represent; in many cases a single hand gesture or salute is enough to give you a clear message (often times not an amicable message to say the least). For example, the swastika is one of the most recognized symbols in the modern world, as well as one of the most feared in history. Even though the swastika is a peaceful, ancient, sacred symbol from Eurasia, not many people know its true origin and most associate it almost exclusively with Nazism and the Third Reich.

However, the swastika is not the only symbol that has lost its original meaning. Other examples include the trident and pentagram, symbols that most people nowadays relate to Satanism and its rituals. However, the origin of these symbols goes back to ancient Greece and has nothing to do with its contemporary meaning. There are so many symbols we use everyday and yet their original meaning is something completely different. Get ready for an awakening with these 25 Symbols in modern times that have lost their original meaning. You might not see “the bird” the same way again.

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Mudras (Hand Gestures)

Mudras (Hand Gestures)Source: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: Wikipedia

It might sound ridiculously funny to those who happen to know the origin of the mudras, but there are indeed many people, especially in the United States, who think that some of the mudras originated in American ghettos and represent certain gangs like the Bloods or Crips. Of course, the original mudras have nothing to do with violence or gangs and originated in India where they symbolize peace, harmony, and good mental health, among other good things.


The lightning bolt

Lightning BoltSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: deviantart.com

This is another symbol that many people wrongly associate exclusively with Nazism, since the double lightning bolt was the official symbol of the Waffen-SS. The history of the lightning bolt, however, goes back to ancient Greece where people considered it a symbol of divine power and punishment from Zeus against those who challenged the gods or wronged others.


The two-fingered salute

The two-fingered saluteSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: YouTube

The two-fingered salute —not to be confused with the V sign— might not be the most popular way to salute someone today, but some people will still do it, mostly instinctively. Regardless of how it is viewed today, this salute goes back to ancient Rome, where defeated gladiators used it to ask for mercy from the Lord of the Arena.


The Phoenix

naziphoenixSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: etherealcathedral.wordpress.com

Also known as the Reichsadler, or “imperial eagle,” this symbol derived from the Roman eagle standard used by the Roman emperors. In modern times the symbol has almost exclusively been associated with Nazi ideology, Hitler, and the Third Reich.


The double-headed eagle

Double-headed eagleSource: Symbols and their meaning (Book), Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The double-headed eagle is a symbol that most people wrongly associate with Russia when in fact its origin goes back to the Byzantine Empire. Used as the dynastic emblem of the Greek Palaiologoi dynasty (the last emperors of the Byzantine Empire), the double-headed eagle became the symbol of Greek Orthodox Christianity, from whence other Orthodox nations (like Russia, for example) later borrowed it.

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