Headstone Symbolism
Did You Know??? On many old tombstones you will find the wording, "Jane Doe, consort of John Doe." This indicates that John was still alive at the time Jane died. If the stone reads "Jane Doe, relict of John Doe," this indicates that Jane's husband was already deceased at the time she died.
See also our Organizational Abbreviations page. Looking for information about US Military headstone abbreviations? Check out the US Veteran's Administration Website for complete info.
Meaning of Headstone Carvings
Acorn - Baby or Young Child, Strength, Independence Adam and Eve with Serpent and Fruit Tree - Quick Death Alpha and Omega - Christ, the beginning and the end Anchor/Ships - Hope, "Anchor" of the family, or Seafaring Profession
Anchor and sword crossed, hatchet and arrow in center - Knights of Columbus Angel - God's messenger Angel Carrying a Baby to Heaven
Angel, dropping flowers on grave - Grief, Mourning Angel, Flying - Resurrection or Rebirth Angel, Pointing to Heaven - Rejoicing in Heaven Angel, Trumpeting - Resurrection Angel, Weeping - Grief & Mourning Angel with sword - Justice Angels - Safety in Spirituality Arches - Victory in Death or A Passageway into the next life Arrows - Mortality, Darts of Death Ax - Sudden death, life was cut short Baby Naked - Innocence, Purity, New life Baby Sleeping - Represents the deceased child Bamboo - Buddha Banner - Triumph, Victory Basket - Fertility Bat - Death, misfortune Bed - At Rest, Anguish at the loss of a loved one Beehive - Industriousness Biblical Sacrifice Scene of Abraham & Isaac with the Angel - Cut Down in Prime of Life Bird - The Soul Bird, Flying - Resurrection Birth - Eternal Life Bone - Death Book - The Bible, Wisdom, Knowledge Book, closed - Secrecy, Final acts written, Chastity Book, cross laying over it - Faith personified Book, open - Perfect Knowledge, The Bible Bouquets/Flowers - Condolences, Grief, Sorrow Breasts (Gourds, Pomegranates) - Nourishment of the Soul (by the church) Broken Chain - Family Ties Broken, Early loss of life.
Broken Column - Loss of Head of Family Broken Ring - Family Circle Severed Buds/Rosebud - Morning of Life or Renewal of Life Bugles - Resurrection and the Military Butterfly - Short-lived; Early Death Caduceus - Medical Profession Candle - Life Candle Being Snuffed - Time, Mortality Candles, two - Dual nature of Christ Candles, three - The Trinity Candles, five - The five wounds of Christ Candles, seven - Jesus Castle - Reference to the Kingdom of Heaven
Chain Links, broken - Family unity is broken Chain Links, three - International Order of Odd Fellows Chain Links, three with R - Rebekah Lodge Chair, empty - Absence of authority, Loss of a loved one Chalice - The Eucharist Cherub - Angelic, Messenger of Divine wisdom Child naked - Innocence, Purity, New life Child Sleeping - Represents the deceased child Church with steeple - Minister Circle - Eternity, Completeness Circle with K in center - Kiwanis International Clock - Symbol of the Passage of Time, usually stopped at the hour of death
Cloud with hand emerging - God reaching down to the deceased Clouds - Transition to the afterlife Clover - The Trinity Clover with H inside each petal - 4-H organization Coffin - Death of the Flesh Columns & Doors - Heavenly Entrance Column broken - Sudden Death, Life cut short Column completed - Full life, Complete life Compass with G in center - Masons Corn - Ripe Old Age, Fertility, Health Cornucopia - Abundance, Thanksgiving, The Bounty of God Cradle - Loss of an infant, Rebirth Crescent - Emblem of the Virgin Mary Cross - Emblem of Faith Crossed Swords - High-ranking Military Person Crown - Glory of Life After Death Cup or Chalice - The Sacraments Daisies - Youth, innocence Darts - Mortality Deid Bell - The Bell Toll of Death Doors - Passageway into the Next Life Dove - Innocence, Gentleness, Affection, Purity, Holy Spirit
Dove with an Olive Branch - Eternal Peace Dove with half-moon and R - Rebekah Lodge Drapes - Mourning or Mortality Eagle, double-headed with 32 on breast - 32nd Degree Mason Eagle with FOE - Fraternal Order of Eagles Eagle with shielded breast inside fleur-de-lis - Boy Scouts of America Elk - Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Father Time - Mortality Fig Leaves - Abundance, fruitfulness Figures with Dart - Killed Finger pointing up - Soul has gone to Heaven Finger pointing down - God reaching down for the Soul Fireman's helmet - Fireman Flame or Light - Life or Resurrection Fleur-de-lis - The Trinity Flower, Severed Stem - Shortened Life or Fragility of Life Flying Birds - Flight of the Soul Fruits - Eternal Plenty Full-Bloom Rose - Prime of Life Garland or Wreath - Victory in Death
Gate - The passage from one realm to the next.
Gourd - Fertility Grape Clusters - Sacrifice, The Eucharist, Body and Blood of Jesus Grave Vine - Christ Grim Reaper - Death Personified Half Carved, Half Uncarved stone - Transition from Life into Death Half-moon and dove with R - Rebekah Lodge Hand holding Ax - Sudden Death, Life was cut short Hand of God Chopping - Sudden Death Hand, Pointing Up - Pathway to Heaven or Heavenly Reward Photo
Hands, Clasped - Good-byes said at Death
Hands, Middle and Ring Fingers Separated - Jewish Blessing Hands, called the Kohanim or Cohanim hands. It shows the hands arranged in the priestly blessing. Kohanim are assumed to be direct male descendants of Aaron, who was the first Kohen and the brother of Moses. Photo Handshakes - Farewell, God's welcome into Heaven and farewell to earthly existence Photo
Handshake with Masculine and Feminine Sleeves - Holy Matrimony Photo Photo Harp - Praise to the Maker, Joy Hatchet with TOTE - Improved Order of Redmen Heart - Love, Love of God, Abode of the Soul, Mortality Heart with cross and anchor - Love, faith and hope Hearts - Soul in Bliss or Love of Christ Heraldry Marks: Label (horizontal bar with three bars extending down) - First son Crescent (half-moon) - Second son Mullet (five-pointed star) - Third son Martlet (bird) - Fourth son Annulet (ring) - Fifth son Fleur-de-lis - Sixth son Rose - Seventh son Cross - Eighth son Double quatrefoil - Ninth son Horns - The Resurrection Hourglass - Swiftness of Time Hourglass with Wings of Time - Time Flying, Short Life Imps - Mortality, Evil demons victorious over death Iris - Hope, purity Ivy - Friendship and Immortality, dependence Lamb - Innocence, Meekness, God's Flock, Child's grave Lamb, lying down - Suffering of Christ Lamb, standing - The triumphant risen Christ Lamp or flame - Hope of resurrection Laurel - Fame or Victory Leaf - Happiness Lighthouse - Safety, watchfulness Lily or Lily of the Valley - Emblem of Innocence and Purity
Lion - Courage, the Lion of Judah, Bravery Lute - Friendship, marital bliss Lyre - Harmonious union Mansion in sky - "In my Father's house there are many mansions" Menorah - Judaism Morning Glory - Beginning of Life Oak Leaves & Acorn - Maturity, Ripe Old Age, Strength of faith
Obelisk - Eternal Life or Regeneration Olive tree or branch - Peace, reconciliation between God and man Open Book/Bible - Deceased Teacher, Minister, Etc. Pall - Mortality Palm Branch - Victory and Rejoicing Peacock - Immortality, Pride, Vanity Pear - Christ's Love for Mankind Phoenix - Resurrection Pick - Death, Mortality Pillar or Column broken - Life cut short, Sudden Death Pillar completed - Full life, completed life Pine Cone - Spiritual fertility Pineapple - Perfection, Welcome Poppy - Sleep Portals - Passageway to Eternal Journey Resurrection Scene - Hope for a Renewed Life in Death Rod or Staff - Comfort for the Bereaved Rooster - Awakening; Resurrection Rose - Motherhood, beauty Roses - Brevity of Early Existence
Roses: Full Blown - Prime of Life
Scales of justice - Attorney Scroll - God's Book of Life, Wisdom
Scythe - Death or the Divine Harvest Seashell - Resurrection, Life Everlasting, Life's Pilgrimage Severed Branch - Mortality Shells - Pilgrimage of Life Sheaf of Wheat - Ripe for Harvest, Divine Harvest Time
Shield - Faith, Protection Shovel - Death Shrouded Woman - Mourning Skeleton - Brevity of Life Shoes, empty, one overturned - Child's death Skull - Mortality Skulls/Crossed Bones - Death Skull and cross bones within heraldic shield - Knights of Pythias Snake (Tail in Mouth) - Everlasting Life in Heaven Spade - Death Spade & Shovel (crossed) - Mortality Spinning Wheel with thirteen stars - Daughters of the American Revolution Star - Spirits Rising (also Masonic attributes if five points) Star, five-pointed rounded tips - Grand Army of the Republic Stars & Stripes Around Eagle - Eternal Vigilance, Liberty Stars, five-pointed inverted - Eastern Star Sun Rising - Renewed Life, Dawn of life Sun Setting - Death Sun Shining - Life Everlasting Sword - Liberty Swords, crossed - Battle Tablets, two - The Ten Commandments Thistle - Scottish descent Thistles - Remembrance Tombs - Mortality Torch Upright - Life Everlasting
Torch Inverted - Life Extinct or the end of a family line
Treble clef - Musician Tree Sprouting - Life Everlasting Tree - Life *Many stones carved in the shape of trees represent the Woodsmen of the World.
Tree Stump - Life interrupted Tree Stump with Ivy - Head of Family, Immortality Tree Trunk, Leaning - Short Interrupted Life Triangle - The Holy Trinity Trumpeters - Heralds of the Resurrection Trumpets - Call of the Spirit, Welcome to Heaven Urn - Immortality (life will be restored)
Urn with Blaze - Undying Friendship, Soul arising out of the ashes Urn with Wreath or Crepe - Mourning Vine - Christ Weeping Willow Tree - Sorrow, Grief, Nature's Lament Wheat - Harvest, Prosperity, Long Full Life Willows - Earthly Sorrow
Winged Effigies - Flight of the Soul Winged Face - Effigy of the Deceased Soul; Soul in Flight Winged Skull - Flight of the Soul from Mortal Man Woman Shrouded - Mourning Woman Weeping - Mourning Wreath on Skull - Victory of Death over Life Wreath - Victory, Mourning
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