Top 12 Ancient Symbols of Love and Their Meanings

Symbols love are important in human cultures, effectively conveying complex and profound ideas. Among the vast collection of symbols, those representing love are particularly noteworthy. These symbols capture love, a powerful human emotion, in a way that words alone often can’t.

Looking back on history, it’s clear that different cultures had unique ways of representing love through symbols. These symbols, born from folklore, mythology, and traditions, reflected each culture’s understanding and interpretation of love. Examples range from the universally recognized heart symbol, which may have roots in ancient Greek culture, to the Double Happiness symbol from Chinese tradition.

Understanding these symbols is about more than just appreciating their aesthetic value or historical significance. It’s also about recognizing the cultural diversity in how love is perceived and expressed. Furthermore, these symbols remind us that while the expression of devotion may vary, the feeling is universal and timeless. It bridges gaps, breaks barriers, and brings us closer to understanding the human experience.

With that said, let’s explore some of the top ancient symbols of love and their meanings.

Symbols of Love and Their Meanings – A Quick Review

If you’re in a hurry, don’t worry! Check out the table below for a summary of our covered topics. You can quickly find the topic you’re interested in or review the main ideas.

S.NoSymbols of LoveMeanings and Significance
1Heart SymbolAn universal icon of love, the heart symbol’s origins are elusive. Still, it’s believed to represent the core of emotional life and love.
2Cupid or ErosOriginating from Roman and Greek mythology, Cupid symbolizes desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection.
3Rose SymbolRoses have been revered since ancient times, symbolizing beauty, love, passion, and secrecy in different cultures.
4AppleThis fruit symbolizes love and knowledge, reflecting the duality of love in its nourishing and challenging aspects.
5HarpKnown for its heavenly music, it symbolizes love, harmony, and tranquility.
6Swan SymbolSwans are associated with love, purity, beauty, and grace, embodying elegance and transformation in love.
7Claddagh RingA traditional Irish symbol, the Claddagh ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship.
8Double Happiness SymbolThis Chinese character represents marital bliss, harmony, and mutual love.
9LovebirdsLovebirds, with their strong pair bonds, symbolize romantic love, companionship, and fidelity.
10Knot SymbolsKnots have been used as symbols of love and commitment, signifying the inseparable bond and unity in love.
11DoveDoves are symbols of peace, devotion, and affectionate love.
12AnkhAn ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh represents eternal life and love, signifying a love that transcends the physical realm.

1. Heart

heart symbols of love

When we think of love, the first symbol that likely comes to mind is the heart. Its simplistic design, a curve that dips to a point at the bottom, has become synonymous with the feeling of love. But have you ever wondered how this came to be?

The Origins of the Heart as a Love Symbol

The heart symbol’s association with love can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. They believed the human soul resided in the heart and was the source of good qualities such as love and wisdom. Over time, with the influence of medieval and Renaissance art, the heart began to take on the stylized shape we’re familiar with today.

Significance and Interpretation of the Heart Symbol

Today, the heart symbol is universally understood to represent love and affection. It is used extensively in everything from greeting cards to digital emoticons, effectively communicating feelings of love, affection, and unity. It’s a potent symbol of emotional connection and uniquely conveys feelings that might be difficult to express in words.

2. Cupid or Eros

Cupid symbols of love

When we think of symbols representing love, the image of a cherubic figure wielding a bow and arrow often comes to mind. This is none other than Cupid, or Eros as he was known in ancient Greece, an enduring symbol of love and desire.

Cupid’s Tale: The Mythological Origins

Cupid is a fascinating character from ancient mythology, with his origins rooted in ancient Greece, where he was known as Eros, the god of love. He was considered the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love. Eros was often depicted as a handsome, eternally young man with wings carrying a golden bow and arrows. However, as the Romans adopted the stories of Eros, he transformed into Cupid, a playful, mischievous child.

In the most famous myth involving Cupid, he is sent by his mother, Aphrodite, to make Psyche, a mortal woman, fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. However, Cupid accidentally scratches himself with his arrow and falls deeply in love with Psyche. This tale symbolizes the irresistible power of physical attraction and the unpredictable nature of love.

How Cupid Represents Love and Desire

Cupid, with his magical bow and arrows, represents love’s whimsical and often unpredictable nature. The idea that anyone struck by Cupid’s arrow falls deeply in love conveys the involuntary and robust nature of attraction. Furthermore, the playful, mischievous, yet innocent image of Cupid also encapsulates the joy and delight that love often brings.

More importantly, Cupid’s story reminds us of love’s transformative power. Despite Cupid and Psyche’s challenges and trials, their love endured, ultimately leading to Psyche’s elevation to godhood. This embodies the hopeful message that love can overcome obstacles and has the power to change us profoundly.

3. Rose Symbol

Rose symbols of love

The rose is a beautiful and fragile flower that symbolizes love. It has been used for centuries to express deep emotions in a universal language.

The Rose in Ancient Mythology and Culture

The connection between the rose and love can be traced back to ancient times. In Greek mythology, it is believed that roses were born from the tears of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and the blood of her beloved, Adonis. Aphrodite gave the rose its thorns by pricking herself on a white rose in her haste to aid the dying Adonis. Her blood turned the rose red, leading to the classic symbol of a red rose representing passionate love.

During the Roman times, roses were associated with secrecy. To maintain the confidentiality of a discussion, a rose would be hung from the ceiling, leading to the birth of the phrase “sub rosa,” which means to keep something secret. This shows that the rose’s symbolism also includes the privacy and confidentiality of love.

Meaning and Connotations of the Rose Symbol

Today, the rose’s significance has evolved, but its core symbolism of love and passion remains. Each color of a rose now holds a different meaning: a red rose symbolizes love and respect, a pink rose indicates grace and admiration, and a white rose stands for purity and innocence. Meanwhile, while serving as a caution of the pricks of love, the thorns symbolize the resilience and strength that love endows us with.

4. Apple

apple symbols of love

The apple, a humble fruit, has held a profound symbolic significance in numerous cultures and mythologies. It has become an emblem of love, knowledge, and temptation.

Tracing the Apple’s Role in Ancient Love Stories

The apple’s romantic symbolism can be traced back to Greek mythology, associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. There’s a tale where a golden apple inscribed with “to the fairest” incites a dispute among Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. This leads to the events of the Trojan War, signifying the apple as a symbol of beauty and desire that can stir conflict and discord.

In Celtic mythology, apples held an even more mystical significance. They were considered to possess the power of granting immortality and believed to grow in the magical realm of the gods. This association connects the apple with eternal love and the promise of a timeless bond.

Unveiling the Symbolism of the Apple

The apple, a simple yet intriguing fruit has long been recognized as a powerful symbol that carries more weight than its humble appearance might suggest. Today, beyond its association with love and desire, the apple is widely seen as a symbol of knowledge and temptation. This duality is rooted in one of human history’s most iconic narratives.

In the biblical story of Adam and Eve, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge – commonly depicted as an apple – led to their fall from grace. The apple here symbolizes knowledge and enlightenment but also represents temptation and the consequences of surrendering to it. This story has echoed through the centuries, shaping our understanding of the apple as a symbol.

This dual symbolism reflects many facets of the human experience of love. Like the apple in the story of Adam and Eve, love often brings knowledge and enlightenment. It allows us to understand ourselves and others deeper, fostering empathy and deep connections. It’s a source of profound joy, nourishment, and growth. But just as the apple represented a forbidden temptation, love can also present challenges. It can lead us to make decisions that have complex implications. 

So, in its quiet simplicity, an apple serves as a poignant reminder of the complex nature of love – it’s capacity to enlighten and nourish and its potential to bring about hardship when we yield to temptation. This dual nature of the apple symbol makes it a fitting representation of the intricate and multifaceted experience of love.

5. Harp

Harp symbols of love

The harp holds a special place among the many instruments that have been cherished through the ages. The sweet melody and elegant shape have made it a powerful symbol, particularly associated with love and harmony.

The Harp’s Melodious Past in Ancient Cultures

The harp’s history stretches back thousands of years, with ancient civilizations across the globe, including Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece, recognizing its beauty. These cultures often associated the harp with divine entities, specifically goddesses of love and beauty. In Irish mythology, the harp even had the power to change emotions, symbolizing emotional transformation and love.

The Harp is a Symbol of Love and Harmony

Today, the harp is considered a symbol of love because of its soothing, harmonious sound, often used in songs of love and devotion. Its heavenly sound is seen as a bridge between earthly and divine love. The harmony it creates symbolizes unity and peace, key elements of love.

6. Swan Symbol

Swan symbols of love

The swan is highly regarded in various cultures for its graceful appearance and calm demeanor. This bird is recognized for its loyalty and elegance and is often associated with love and purity.

The Legend of Swans in Ancient Folklore

Swans features prominently in various ancient tales and legends. In Greek mythology, the god Zeus took the form of a swan to woo Leda, leading to the birth of Helen of Troy. Swans were also sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Norse and Celtic myths, swans symbolize grace, purity, and beauty, often associated with love and romantic relationships.

Swan Symbol: Purity, Beauty, and Love

In modern symbolism, swans represent love, fidelity, and partnership. This stems from a swan’s mate for life, reflecting steadfast loyalty. Their striking appearance symbolizes beauty and elegance, and their serene nature embodies peace and tranquility, all of which are attributes often associated with love.

7. Claddagh Ring

Claddagh Ring symbols of love

The Claddagh ring is an iconic symbol of love, friendship, and loyalty from the Irish village of Claddagh.

Origin of the Claddagh Ring in Irish Traditions

The Claddagh ring’s history is enveloped in Irish folklore, the most popular tale being about a man named Richard Joyce who, after being released from slavery, created the ring as a testament to his enduring love for his sweetheart. The ring’s unique design, which includes a heart held by two hands and topped with a crown, is rich in symbolism.

Understanding the Claddagh Ring’s Love Symbolism

Each element of the Claddagh ring represents a different quality: the heart symbolizes love, the hands stand for friendship, and the crown signifies loyalty. Wearing this ring thus sends a potent message about the wearer’s values. Today, Claddagh rings are often used as engagement or wedding rings, representing a bond of love, friendship, and loyalty between partners.

8. Double Happiness Symbol

Double Happiness symbols of love

In Chinese culture, the Double Happiness symbol is a prominent emblem of love, marriage, and mutual joy.

The Emergence of the Double Happiness Symbol in Chinese Culture

The Double Happiness symbol originated in the Tang Dynasty through a romantic tale of a young student preparing for imperial examinations. After receiving help from a maiden, he promised to return, eventually winning the exams and marrying the maiden. The symbol they created for their wedding has since become synonymous with wedded bliss.

The Double Happiness Symbol: Love and Marital Bliss

Today, the Double Happiness symbol is often found at weddings, on gifts, and in decorations, symbolizing the shared joy and love in marriage. Its bold design of two interconnected characters for “happiness” represents the mutual happiness of the couple, making it a powerful icon of love and marital bliss.

9. Lovebirds

lovebirds symbols of love

Lovebirds, small parrots known for their affectionate behavior, have become a universal symbol of love and commitment.

Lovebirds in Ancient Tales and Traditions

The origin of lovebirds as a symbol of love stems from their nature. These monogamous birds are often seen in pairs, showing affection to their partners, which caught human attention and became associated with love and romance.

Why Lovebirds are Associated with Romantic Love

Today, lovebirds are synonymous with couples in love. Their behavior—sitting close together, preening to each other—represents intimacy, companionship, and mutual care, qualities often associated with romantic love.

10. Knot Symbols

Knot symbols of love

Knot symbols, intricate designs formed by interlacing lines, are found in various cultures and often represent love and commitment.

The Tying of Knots: Ancient Practices and Beliefs

Knots have been used for practical and symbolic purposes since ancient times. “tying the knot” is a universal metaphor for making a vow or establishing a connection, which became associated with marriage and love.

Knot Symbols: A Binding Love and Commitment

In modern times, knots remain a powerful symbol of commitment. For example, with its entwined paths, the Celtic love knot represents the interconnectedness of two lives. Similarly, the love knot in Chinese culture signifies undying love, reflecting the enduring power of this ancient symbol.

11. Dove

dove symbols of love

With their gentle demeanor and striking white plumage, dogs have long been symbols of love, peace, and devotion.

The Dove’s Peaceful Presence in Ancient Cultures

Doves has been associated with divine entities and qualities such as love and peace in various cultures. In Greek mythology, doves were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Christian iconography, the dove symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit.

Dove Symbol: Love, Peace, and Devotion

Today, the dove remains a prevalent symbol of love and peace. Doves mate for life, which makes them a symbol of fidelity and enduring love. Their peaceful cooing and gentle demeanor encapsulate a loving, friendly relationship. The release of doves at weddings symbolizes the couple’s love and hope for a peaceful future together.

12. Ankh

Ankh symbols of love

The Ankh, also known as the key of life, is a distinctive symbol from ancient Egypt that represents both physical and eternal life, including the eternal aspect of love.

The Ankh’s Ancient Egyptian Roots

The Ankh originates in ancient Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations in history. Its design, a loop above a cross, represents the integration of male and female principles, often associated with the Gods Isis and Osiris, a divine couple expressing fruitful and enduring love.

Ankh Symbol: Eternal Life and Love

Nowadays, the Ankh carries a sense of longevity, spiritual wisdom, and especially everlasting love. Its association with the divine’s undying love serves as a reminder of love’s potential to endure beyond the physical realm, encompassing spiritual and emotional connections that transcend time and space.


As we wrap up our exploration into the rich symbolism of these ancient emblems of love, it’s clear that love, in its various forms, has been a central theme in human life throughout history. These symbols show how our ancestors perceived and portrayed love, shedding light on shared human experiences across different cultures and epochs.

Indeed, whether it’s the universality of the heart symbol, the shared commitment represented by the lovebirds and knot symbols, or the enduring love symbolized by the Ankh, these symbols carry timeless messages about love. Learning about these symbols helps us understand our past and enhances our understanding of love in the present. It emphasizes the lasting significance of love and the countless ways it can be expressed and felt.

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