Flag of Ireland

11 Irish symbols

Explore the rich history and meaning behind Irish symbols in this comprehensive guide. From the iconic Claddagh ring to the intricate Celtic knot, Irish symbols are deeply rooted in the country’s culture and heritage. Discover the stories and legends behind these powerful symbols, and gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and significance of Irish art and design. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture enthusiast, or simply curious about Irish traditions, this post is a must-read for anyone interested in the Emerald Isle’s unique and fascinating symbolism.
Flag of Ireland Irish flag

The TriColor Flag

The Irish flag, also known as the Tricolour, consists of three equally sized stripes in green, white, and orange. The green symbolises Irish Catholics, the orange represents Irish Protestants, and the white signifies hope for peace and unity between the two communities. The flag’s design dates back to 1848 when it was presented to Irish nationalist leader Thomas Francis Meagher by French sympathisers. However, it wasn’t officially recognized as the national flag of Ireland until 1916 during the Easter Rising. The flag’s symbolism reflects the desire for harmony between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, with the green representing nationalism, the orange symbolising the Protestant community, and the white signifying peace.

imagesA Shamrock


The shamrock is a significant symbol of Ireland, deeply rooted in history and culture. It is a three-leafed clover that has become synonymous with Irish identity and heritage. The shamrock’s association with Ireland dates back to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who used it as a metaphor to explain the Holy Trinity – where the three leaves represented God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Over time, the shamrock became a national emblem, symbolising Irish pride and unity. It has been featured in various forms, from jewellery to clothing, and has become a ubiquitous symbol of Irishness, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. The shamrock’s popularity has transcended borders, making it a recognizable symbol of Ireland worldwide.

An Irish HarpAn Irish Harp

The Irish Harp

The Irish harp is a significant symbol of Ireland, representing the country’s rich cultural heritage and history. It has been the national emblem of Ireland since the 13th century, featuring on various flags, coats of arms, passports, currency, and even the packaging of various forms of drinks. The harp’s association with Ireland dates back to the early Gaelic society, where it was considered the pinnacle of society, second only to the File, or poet. The Brian Boru Harp, named after the last High King of Ireland, is the grandest of the surviving mediaeval harps in Ireland and is a national treasure. The harp is also a symbol of resistance to the Crown, outlawed by England due to its subversive power. The harp’s design has been used by various political movements, such as the Volunteer movement, Daniel O’Connell, and the United Irishmen, to communicate different visions of Ireland. Today, the harp continues to be used by government departments, political parties, and Irish companies like Guinness and Ryanair, as well as being a popular symbol in Irish and Celtic jewellery designs

The Claddagh RingThe Claddagh Ring

Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring with a distinctive design featuring two hands holding a heart, topped with a crown. This symbol carries deep meanings where the hands represent friendship, the heart symbolises love, and the crown signifies loyalty. The Claddagh ring is a symbol of love, friendship, and loyalty that is universally recognized and can be worn by anyone, regardless of cultural background. It is a meaningful gift for various occasions like weddings, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, or as a symbol of friendship, and it is also popular among those with Irish heritage to honour their cultural roots.

A Celtic CrossA Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is a symbol that has been present in Ireland since the early Middle Ages. It is a powerful representation of faith and hope, with a circular centre that symbolises the sun, the moon, and the infinite love of God. The cross itself represents the spiritual and the physical worlds, while the four arms of the cross are said to represent the four directions of the compass, the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, and the four aspects of the human experience – mind, body, heart, and soul. The Celtic Cross first emerged in Ireland in the early Middle Ages, following the arrival of the Celts from 500 BC onwards. The cross’s design features a traditional cross accentuated with a circle around the intersection of the arms and stem. The circular centre is said to be evocative of the Celtic symbol for infinite love, with no beginning and no end, symbolising God’s endless love.

The Celtic Tree Of LifeThe Celtic Tree Of Life

Celtic Tree of Life

The Celtic Tree of Life is a significant symbol deeply rooted in Celtic culture and mythology, representing various qualities and meanings. This symbol features a large, strong tree with far-reaching branches and roots, often depicted with intricate Celtic knots, making it distinctive and visually captivating. The Tree of Life symbolises the cycle of life, harmony, and balance in nature, embodying positive attributes like wisdom, strength, and positivity. It is believed to represent the cyclical stages of life and death, birth, growth, maturity, and renewal, illustrating the interconnectedness of all living things and the continuous cycle of existence. The Celtic Tree of Life holds great importance in Celtic tradition, serving as a symbol of connection between different generations and a tribute to one’s roots, whether it be a love for Celtic culture, Ireland, or nature in general. The symbol’s unique appearance, rich symbolism, and enduring popularity make it a cherished emblem that resonates with individuals of Irish heritage and beyond.

The Trinity KnotThe Trinity Knot

Triquetra / Trinity Knot

The triquetra is a symbol composed of three interlaced arcs or overlapping Vesica Pisces lens shapes. It has been used as an ornamental design in architecture and mediaeval manuscript illumination, particularly in the Insular tradition. The Insular triquetra is a “minor though recurring theme” in the secondary phase of Anglo-Saxon sceatta production (c. 710–760) and is found in similar artwork on early Christian High Crosses and slabs. It has been interpreted as representing the Holy Trinity, especially since the Celtic revival of the 19th century, but the original intention by the early mediaeval artists is unknown. The triquetra is also used as a Trinitarian symbol in contemporary Catholic iconography. In modern times, the triquetra is often used artistically as a design element when Celtic knotwork is used, especially in association with the modern Celtic nations. It is also found as a design element in popular Irish jewellery such as Claddaghs and other wedding or engagement rings. Celtic pagans or neopagans who are not of a Celtic cultural orientation may use the triquetra to symbolise a variety of concepts, such as the Triple Goddess or as a protective symbol. The symbol is also used by Wiccans, White Witches, and some New Agers to symbolise the Triple Goddess, or as a protective symbol.

A St Brigid's CrossA St Brigid’s Cross

Brigid’s cross

Brigid’s Cross is a small variant of the cross often woven from straw or rushes, appearing in many different shapes, but the most popular designs feature a woven diamond or lozenge in the centre. It is named for Brigid of Kildare, the only female patron saint of Ireland, who was born c. 450 in Leinster. The cross is typically woven on 1 February, her feast day, as well as the festival of Imbolc in pre-Christian Ireland. It is associated with the Christian saint Brigid and is also believed to have roots in pre-Christian Celtic symbolism, such as the sun or the great wheel in the sky. The cross is typically woven from rushes or straw, with the most common design featuring a woven diamond or lozenge in the centre. It is traditionally hung over the door in Irish homes, symbolising home, health, and protection, and is also used as a protective symbol when travelling. The tradition of making and displaying Brigid’s Cross dates back to pre-Christian Ireland and has been passed down through generations, making it an important symbol of Irish culture and heritage.



The triskelion, also known as the triskeles, is an ancient motif consisting of three bent human legs or, more generally, any pattern in triplicate that exhibits rotational symmetry. The symbol has been found in artefacts of the European Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with continuation into the Iron Age, especially in the Insular tradition. In Ireland before the 5th century, the triskelion was associated with Celtic Christianity and took on new meaning as a symbol of the Trinity. The symbol has also been used in Gothic architecture as a decorative element, and in late mediaeval heraldry, notably as the arms of the King of Mann and as canting arms in the city seal of the Bavarian city of Füssen. The triskeles is also found in the flag of Sicily, proposed in 1848, and later versions of Sicilian flags have retained the emblem, including the one officially adopted in 2000. The flag of the Isle of Man (1932) shows a heraldic design of a triskeles of three armoured legs, and the symbol is also used in the flags of the Bavarian town of Füssen, Germany, and the Russian autonomous region of Ust-Orda Buryat Okrug. In Ireland, the triskelion is displayed in hospitals and care centres to indicate that a patient is dying or has died, based on the historical use of the triskele in Celtic Ireland. The symbol has also been used by some polytheistic reconstructionism or neopagan groups.

Dara Celtic Knot Symbols 350x368 1The Celtic Knot

The Celtic knot is a type of knotwork that originated in the Celtic regions of Europe, including Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These knots are characterised by their intricate patterns and the absence of beginning or end points, symbolising the interconnectedness and continuity of life. The most common types of Celtic knots include the Trinity Knot, the Dara Knot, the Shield Knot, and the Spiral Knot. The Trinity Knot, also known as the Triquetra, is a three-cornered design that represents the three components of a relationship: love, trust, and communication. The Dara Knot, on the other hand, is a more modern design that symbolises strength and the unending growth from birth to death and rebirth. The Shield Knot is a protective symbol that was created by sailors, while the Spiral Knot is a three-sided design that represents water, fire, and earth. Celtic knots are often used in jewellery, tattoos, and other forms of art, and they continue to be a popular symbol of Celtic culture and heritage.


The Ailm is an ancient Celtic symbol that represents strength and endurance, particularly in the context of the Ogham alphabet, an early mediaeval alphabet used to write the Irish language. The name Ailm is derived from the Irish word for pine tree, and the symbol is often associated with the pine tree’s qualities of longevity, strength, and endurance. The Ailm symbol is typically depicted as a cross within a circle, symbolising a balanced and complete soul. It is believed that the Ailm was originally part of a string of letters in the Ogham alphabet, representing the fifth vowel and making the ‘A’ sound. The Ailm is also associated with healing, particularly the healing of the soul, reflecting the Celts’ strong spiritual connection to trees and their belief in the healing properties of certain trees, such as the pine tree. Today, the Ailm symbol is used in jewellery and other forms of art to honour Irish heritage and draw upon the symbol’s strength and resilience.

Irish symbols are a fascinating and rich aspect of Ireland’s cultural heritage. These symbols hold deep meaning and significance, reflecting the country’s history, values, and traditions. By understanding the stories and legends behind these symbols, we can appreciate Irish art and design, and connect with the Emerald Isle’s unique and fascinating culture. We hope this post has inspired you to learn more about the beautiful and meaningful symbols of Ireland.

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