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6 Fascinating Irish Symbols and Their Meaning

Mukta Gaikwad Mar 11, 2020
The intricate designs of Irish symbols are famous for their mysticism. Here's decoding these symbols and meanings for you. Read on to know more...
Symbolic anthropology is one of the approaches taken by anthropologists to understand human interpretations, history and its significance. Cultural anthropologists believe that humans, since time immemorial have used symbols as a form of expression. Thus, art has been a great source information for ardent students of human evolution. 
The Irish symbols is one such segment of symbology, which has intrigued historians and art enthusiasts, alike. These symbols date back to the Celtic era around the stone age. Little is known about these interlaced or nature motifs, which adds to their mystique.

Meaning of Irish symbols


The Irish symbolism has been closely associated with an ancient musical instrument, the harp. 
The harp in question is Dagda's harp, which is known to resonate the most melodious music. Season would progress in harmony at the sound of this harp. As the legend goes, this harp was stolen by Dagda's enemy and was left to be covered in dust on a dilapidated wall.
On Dagda's calling, the harp flew back into its rightful owner's hands. This legend has made the harp a symbol of loyalty and mysticism. The rich ornamental work on the harp has made it represent lyrical majesty and pride.


These little men with pots of gold hidden beneath the rainbow. Leprechauns have featured in innumerable stories, fables, myths and legends.
They are known to be assistants to fairies who make shoes at night. Leprechauns are considered to be Celtic or Irish symbols for tattoos, since they appeared at the time of Celts. These mischievous men are known to have the Irish gift of the gab and a speed, that none can match. The fables say that Leprechauns have the ability to work all night long.
These little creatures can only be intoxicated by a homemade brew known as 'Poteen', but nothing can diminish their insurmountable energy to make shoes. Thus, leprechauns are a symbol of energy and wealth.


A young goldsmith gave Claddagh ring to his lover and promised to marry her. 
However, before the wedlock, he was kidnapped by pirates. His love, refused to believe that he was killed and was never to come back. She waited for five years, until one day he escaped, made a fortune and returned to his love for live happily ever after. Ever since that time, Claddagh ring has been an ancient Irish symbol of love and commitment.
The ring bears the design of two hands clasping a heart and a crown on top. It's a popular symbol of friendship and eternal love. This Irish symbol depicts romantic love, platonic love, promises, commitments and forever.

Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is another version of the famously known Christian Cross. It is typically seen as a cross with a ring, around the intersection. The ring represents a connection between the old and the new ways of life. This equally armed cross has been widely studied over the years. 
It is usually understand as a symbol of hope, life, honor, faith, unity, balance, transition, and navigation. Several believe the Celtic Cross to be a spiritual compass, guiding believers through the spiritual sea.
Although the Celtic Cross was introduced by St. Patrick, it has its roots in the Pagan culture. This cross has been popularly used as a part of several types of designs such as tattoos, textile and graphics.


Shamrock is clearly a nature motif from the Emerald Isle. A symbol of Holy Trinity, St. Patrick believed the three leaved clover represented The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. 
The shamrock and evergreen plant, was worshiped for its vitality. This made shamrock represent life and longevity. Over the years, it also became Irish symbol for strength.
Medieval Irish poetry notes clover to be a symbol of young lovers. Thus, the shamrock is an Irish symbol for love too. The evergreen clover is planted at the graves as a depiction of new life, hope and resurrection.

St. Brigid's Cross

The St. Brigid's Cross is commonly seen as the one made from straw or dry grass. Legend has it that St. Brigid was summoned by her Christian servants to convert a dying lord to Christianity before he left for the heavenly journey.
However, the lord was so sick that he could barely understand what was happening around him. In an effort to ward off the evil, Saint Brigid started weaving a cross out of the dry grass on the floor. Perplexed by her actions, the lord asked her what she was doing. As she explained him, the delirium slowly faded away and the lord was nursed back to health.
Shortly there after he baptized. Thus, he eventually died as a Christian. As a matter of tradition, the cross is weaved on 1st of February every year to mark the Feast Day of St. Brigid. This cross is a symbol of protector against evil spirits, faith and now Irish heritage.
These were some of the Irish symbols and meanings. Celtic tattoos and designs are also a part of Irish symbolism. The Irish flag, needless to say is one of the most famously used Irish symbol for hope and patriotism. These symbols are silent spokesmen of Irish heritage to the world which continues to be connived by the island's enigma.