Meaning Of The Infinity Symbol [∞], History, & Facts (Lemniscate Sign)
The infinity symbol (∞) is one of the most common symbols today. Students see it in mathematics textbooks, and in the outside world (away from educational institutions), you’ll see it on tattoos and artworks. Scientists and engineers also use it in physics, calculus, and physics.
Most people can quickly identify the infinity sign just by looking at it.
The English word infinite comes from the Latin word ‘infinitas.’ It breaks down into this: in = not and finis = end, boundary
Now the question is, what is the infinity symbol? Where did it originate and who created the infinity sign? And when do we (as humanity) use the infinity sign?
Let’s answer those questions and give an in-depth explanation of the past and current nature of the infinity sign.
Here’s also our in-depth guide on how to type the infinity symbol on your keyboard.
History & Introduction To The Infinity Symbol
For those that watched the 1995 animated film Toy Story, you know the catchphrase constantly said by the character Buzz Lightyear: To Infinity And Beyond. So what is the infinity symbol?
What Is The infinity Symbol?
The infinity symbol, also known as the lemniscate, is curve-shaped like a figure-eight (∞). Infinity is the concept that something or an object is endless, unlimited, or without bounds.
The term lemniscate comes from the Greek word Lemniskos. In ancient Greek, a Lemniskos was a ribbon used to fasten a garland on one’s head. The word Lemniskos originates from the island Lemnos where they are worn.
Not only is the word Lemniskos a ribbon, but it is also used in human anatomy. It’s a bundle of secondary sensory fibers in the brainstem.
Who Created The Infinity Sign
English mathematician John Wallis created and introduced the infinity symbol in 1655. This symbol found use in treating a series of squares of indivisibles. He introduced the infinity symbol in his mathematical paper De sectionibus conicis ova methodo expositis tractatus.
There are several theories why Wallis chose this symbol for the infinity sign. One theory proposes that he used a Roman numeral for the infinity sign, but it’s unclear which Roman numeral was the inspiration.
Another theory proposes that the infinity symbol was based on the numeral for 100 million. Yet another theory proposes that it was based on the notation CIↃ used to represent 1,000.
There are many theories behind the infinity symbol and how it came about, but the only person (John Wallis) who can answer that question passed away over 300 years ago.
John Wallis was the most prominent English mathematician before Sir Isaac Newton. He also had an incredible ability for mental calculations.
Not only did he create the infinity sign, but he also made enormous contributions to the world of mathematics.
John Wallis also coined the term ‘continued fraction’ in the book Opera Mathematica One. John Wallis and Isaac Newton wrote the book Opera Mathematica One.
The Concept Of The Infinite
The infinity symbol was coined in 1655, but the concept of the infinite has existed since the 6th century BCE. The Greek philosopher Anaximander identified The Boundless as the origin of all that is. Sounds familiar?
The Pythagoreans (6th century BCE) saw the infinite negatively and emphasized the lack of definiteness associated with it. Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs of ( the Greek philosopher) Pythagoras of Samos and his followers, the Pythagoreans.
The Greek philosopher Archytas of Tarentum argued that if the cosmos has boundaries, you could extend your hand outside its boundary to find either space or matter.
Archytas identified this with the world (as we know it) being infinite.
The Three Types Of Infinity
There are three main types of infinity:
- The mathematical
- The physical
- The metaphysical
The Infinity Symbol In Mathematics
An interesting fact is that ancient Greek mathematicians avoided the use of infinity. They replaced this with something called the method of exhaustion. It is a technique used for measuring planes and solid figures that allowed the Greek mathematicians not to resort to the infinite, even where an infinite limit process would seem to be forced by the situation.
Without deviating from the topic of the infinity symbol, you can always delve deeper into the method of exhaustion from the history of mathematics.
So what is the infinity symbol in mathematics?
The most productive development use of the infinity symbol was in 17th-century mathematics in calculus. You can still see its use in mathematics today.
Currently, in mathematics, the infinity sign describes something larger than the natural number. Generally speaking, it’s still something endless or without a limit. It also mostly represents a potential infinity instead of an infinite quantity.
A set of numbers can have an infinite definition if there exists a one-to-one correspondence between that set and a proper subset of itself.
For instance: z+ 1 =z, this equation is only possible if x is an infinite number. By adding 1 it will not change the initial number.
Another thing to note about the mathematical infinity sign is this:
– ∞ < z < ∞
It means that the negative infinity (– ∞) is less than the real number (which is z in this case) and the positive infinity (∞) is greater than the real number.
The basic use of the infinity symbol in mathematics compares the sizes of number sets.
Mathematical Properties Of The Infinity Sign
- The Addition Property
If any number is added to infinity, the sum is also equal to infinity. For instance:
- ∞ + ∞ = ∞
And the same applies to the negative.
- ∞ + -∞ = -∞
- The Multiplication Property
If a number is multiplied by infinity, then the value of the product is also equal to infinity.
- ∞ × ∞ = ∞
- -∞ × ∞ = -∞
- -∞ × -∞ = ∞
- Special Properties
If z is any integer:
- z + (-∞) = -∞
- z + ∞ = ∞
- z – (-∞) = ∞
- z – ∞ = -∞
- For z > 0:
- z x (-∞) = -∞
- z x ∞ = ∞
- For z < 0:
- z x (-∞) = ∞
- z x ∞ = -∞
The Infinity Sign In Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that analyzes the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity, and possibility.
In the natural and social sciences, the infinity symbol sometimes appears as a consequence of our theories themselves or in the modeling of relevant phenomena.
Some metaphysicians argue that there are infinitely many possibilities/possible worlds and canvases considering how big this infinity is.
Not only that, but Philosophers of religion debate whether the divine is infinite, whether the divine creation is infinite, and whether the value of the afterlife is infinite.
The infinity in the metaphysical is different from the metaphysical in mathematics. Some scholars see the infinity symbol in metaphysics as a totality, absoluteness, and perfection.
Due to history, it’s difficult to differentiate the infinity symbol in the mathematical from the metaphysical one. The two definitions are intertwined and require the analyst or the observer to interact with both versions of the infinity symbol to create their understanding of the symbol.
Brands That Use The Infinity Symbol
You also might’ve come across the infinity symbol in household brands or other brands you interact with daily. These brands use the infinity symbol to represent their unlimited value and boundless continuity in their specific market.
For instance: automotive manufacturer Audi AG Aktiengesellschaft (or Audi for short) has four interconnected rings as its logo. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that it’s an infinity sign.
Not only do we see this representation in the automotive industry, but you can also find it in the social media app industry. Facebook changed its brand name and logo in 2021. It now goes by the brand name Meta and its new brand logo is an infinity sign but stylized to match the trends and current audience.
Here are other brands that use the infinity sign in their logo:
- Virgin Media (a British telecommunications company)
- Fujitsu (a Japanese multinational corporation)
- Bitcoin (represented by ∞ divided by 21,000,000)
- Boomerang Cable (the cable TV and cable harness company)
- Microsoft Visual Studio (an integrated development environment from Microsoft)
- Alpha Infinity (a men’s management and consultancy firm)
- The 2022 FIFA World Cup
- Cell Press ( a scientific journal publisher)
These brands are but a few that use the infinity sign in their logo. What’s interesting is that most people won’t notice the infinity sign. You’ll have to look at it to notice the infinity sign. Most of the time, the infinity sign is stylized to fit a brand’s specific image. For instance: Microsoft Visual Studio.
Visual Studio is a well-known coding environment used by developers worldwide, but there’s a high probability that its users don’t realize that the brand logo is an infinity sign.
Another representation of the infinity symbol (it might not be in a brand logo unless you are a brand) is in the human DNA. If you didn’t notice, the human DNA or human genomes are in a figure-eight shape, otherwise known as the infinity symbol.
Meanings Of The Infinity Symbol
The infinity sign outside of mathematics and the metaphysical has several meanings. You’ll find it on tattoos, jewelry, clothing, etc. that offer different meanings to the wearer or user. Not all these meanings pinpoint the limitless meaning mentioned earlier. In fact, it might all be up to your interpretation.
Here are some meanings of the infinity symbol.
- The Ouroboros
The Ouroboros or Uroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its tail. Most of the time it’s a snake, and if you’re a Taylor Swift fan, you’ve seen it in a lyric video to one of her songs.
In ancient Egypt, the Ouroboros symbol represented eternity and endless return. Not only that, but it also symbolized repetition, renewal, and the eternal cycle of time.
Furthermore, the Ouroboros is the oldest allegorical symbol in alchemy. Another definition of the Ouroboros from ancient Egyptian texts is “One is All, and by it All, and for it All, and if it does not contain All, then All is Nothing.”
It’s why there’s a lot of correlation between the Ouroboros and the infinity symbol. Both consist of circular shapes, and they also share a similar meaning albeit from different cultures.
- Balance
In meditation, the infinity symbol represents balance, harmony, peace, and oneness. The infinity symbol is harmonious because there are two circles coming together harmoniously. It could represent two conflicting energies coming together to harmoniously fit into each other.
- Love
The infinity symbol is also a sign of eternal love. The infinity symbol represents everlasting love which is why you’ll find it on several jewelry designs. It could be in a necklace (which is the most common) or a ring. When someone gives a gift with the infinity sign on it, it represents endless love.
The infinity sign is also a great matching couple tattoo idea because of this same meaning. Furthermore, a piece of jewelry with the infinity sign also represents love with no beginning or end. It’s very sweet.
- The Möbius Strip
Another meaning of the infinity symbol lies with the Morbius Strip. The Möbius Strip is a surface, material, or object that forms when you attach the ends of a strip of paper together with a half-twist.
Johann Benedict Listing and August Ferdinand Möbius discovered the Möbius Strip in 1858. However, the Möbius Strip has its origins steeped in the third century CE from Roman mosaics.
What makes the Möbius Strip special is that it is a non-orientable surface. You cannot consistently distinguish the sides of the Möbius Strip when you turn it clockwise from counterclockwise.
Tip: Every non-orientable surface contains a Möbius strip.
The infinity symbol, and specifically the figure eight-shape describes the Möbius Strip.
- The Kundalini
In Hinduism, the Kundalini translates to the coiled snake. In Yoga, the Kundalini is a symbol that represents the infinity symbol. It represents the duality and unifying nature of male and female energies. The Kundalini also looks like the infinity sign. Furthermore, it’s also similar to the Ouroboros since they are both coiled snakes.
One may be eating its tail while the other is coiled around the human spine in some interpretations. In some other interpretations, some people compare the Kundalini to the Caduceus.
The Infinity Symbol In The Tarot Deck
Despite all the wonderful artistic and stylized design of tarot cards some things do not change. One such thing is the presence of the infinity symbol in the tarot deck. The infinity symbol occurs in three specific cards:
- The Magician
- The Two of Cups
- The Strength Card
- The Magician
The infinity symbol on the Magician card sits right on top of the magician holding the wand in the card. You can find this simple illustration from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. So what does it mean?
The infinity symbol represents the entire wisdom of the plan on Earth within it. It shows the desire, buried deep within our souls, to find our way back to unity or oneness. We can cleanse this desire by recognizing the infinite potential for development that we find in duality and in the correct balancing of that duality.
- The Two Of Cups
The next card that showcases the infinity symbol is the Two Of Cups, a minor arcana card. The infinity symbol in the Two of Cups represents a link that allows us to recognize all our feelings and allows us to calmly balance out these feelings.
Once we learn to bring our emotions into balance with the infinity symbol, we shall become creators of a new world.
- The Strength Card
The last card in the tarot deck with the infinity symbol is the Strength Card. Interestingly, it is number VIII in the major arcana list. It depicts a woman gently opening the mouth of a lion with her bare hands. You will then find the infinity symbol sitting right on top of her head.
The infinity symbol in the Strength Card represents the ability, strength, and courage of every human to live their lives in harmony in the way they want to.
Why Is The Infinity Symbol Shaped Like An 8?
The number eight is perfect in and of itself, infinite, without beginning or end. It represents endless love, infinite peace, and unbounded progress for everything we can possibly imagine and dream. Furthermore, figure eight consists of two circles that meet at a point.
In numerology, eight is also the number of architects, builders, painters, and in general people that want to create something lasting. Even content creators fall in this category. As long as you are creating something that impacts another person’s life.
The Infinity Symbol In Chinese Culture
The Chinese culture reveres the number 8. You will find entertainers and performers using the number 8 in their stage names because it means luck, wealth, and fortune.
The number 8 is auspicious (meaning: promising), and it’s a number that will bring happiness. The number eight is so crucial to the Chinese that the 2008 Olympic Games opened in Beijing at exactly 08:08 on 08.08.2008.
In Chinese, the word for the number eight is ‘ba’ and its pronunciation is very similar to ‘fa’ (meaning ‘wealth’ or ‘fortune’).
In Chinese culture, they have eight different trigrams that bring together people that utilize feng shui in their living spaces. Feng Shui is a useful guide for the harmonious arrangement of our living and work spaces. Feng Shui balances the energy in the eight trigrams.
The eight trigrams represent happiness, harmony, and prosperity which is why you’ll find homes, buildings, corporate offices, etc in China that apply Feng Shui to their spaces.
Furthermore, in China, you will see many representations of the legendary ‘Eight Immortals’ (八仙). They are eight wise people each possessing a unique talent. Each immortal can transfer their power to a vessel (法器) that can bestow life or destroy evil.
Here’s a list of the immortals:
- He Xiangu (何仙姑)- The only female of the group, often depicted holding a lotus flower.
- Cao Guojiu (曹國舅)- He is related to a Song dynasty emperor before he became an immortal.
- Li Tieguai (李鐵拐) – They are mentally disturbed and associated with medicine and easing the suffering of the sick and needy. He is identified by his iron crutch and Calabash bottle.
- Lan Caihe (藍采和) – 0riginally illustrated as female, then later developed an ambiguous or more accurately, a “transformative” gender. They are the patron of florists and gardeners.
- Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓) – He is a scholar and poet. He is also the leader of the Eight Immortals.
- Han Xiangzi (韓湘子 – A flute artist.
- Zhang Guolao (張果老) – A fangshi (technical specialists such as astrologers, diviners, alchemists, etc) symbol of longevity.
- Zhongli Quan (鍾離權) – He is associated with death and the power to create silver and gold. He is often depicted holding a fan.
The number 8 is prevalent in Chinese history and current Chinese society. There are several instances in Chinses culture that showcase the use of the number 8. These are just but a few that showcase the important part the number 8 plays in Chinese culture.
Infinity Symbol In Microsoft Word
Windows understands the importance of the infinity symbol for not only mathematicians but also people looking into the metaphysical. Fortunately, they created a keyboard shortcut for users to access the infinity symbol.
Fortunately for you, we tested it out and we assure you that it works. Here’s the keyboard shortcut:
Hold the ALT key and type 236 on the NUM-LOCK keypad.
Another way you can get the infinity symbol is by searching up the symbol, copy-pasting (or CTRL C + CTRL V) the infinity symbol, and putting it in your required document.
It may be long and unnecessary, but it does the trick.
You can also read more about how to type the Infinity Symbol here.
Take Aways
The infinity symbol is rooted in human history. It’s over a hundred years old, and humanity has a way to utilize it, whether it’s in jewelry or tattooing, in physics, mathematics, metaphysics, etc. The infinity sign has remained infinite.
Speaking of the infinite, this concept also has its roots in history. Greek scholars didn’t have a word to describe the infinity symbol, but the concept of the infinite existed. Greek mathematicians did try to avoid using the infinite concept. However, this concept was a necessity for mathematical solutions.
This symbol has several meanings across different cultures worldwide, but it all boils down to being endless, boundless, and without limits.