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15 Powerful Symbols of Betrayal and What They Mean

Betrayal is a deeply emotional and personal experience that can leave lasting scars on an individual’s heart and psyche. It’s a breach of trust that can shatter even the strongest of bonds.

But sometimes, words are not enough to describe the pain and devastation of betrayal. That’s where symbols come in. Symbols of betrayal can evoke powerful emotions and convey the gravity of the situation in a way that words cannot.

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From a dagger in the back to a poisoned chalice, these tangible representations of betrayal have been used for centuries to illustrate the hurt and sorrow that come with being betrayed. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most iconic symbols of betrayal throughout history and what they represent.

1. Dagger in the Back

Latex dagger leather sheat
Dagger in the Back a symbol of betrayal. See it here.

The dagger in the back is one of the most iconic symbols of betrayal throughout history. It represents the ultimate act of disloyalty, a cowardly attack on someone who trusted you.

The image of a sharp blade plunged into someone’s back evokes a sense of treachery and betrayal that is difficult to put into words.

The dagger in the back is a reminder that betrayal can come from those closest to us. It’s not always the enemy that stabs us in the back; sometimes, it’s a friend, a family member, or a colleague who we thought we could trust.

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The dagger in the back also represents the permanence of betrayal. Even if the wound heals, the scar remains, a constant reminder of the hurt and pain inflicted.

It’s a symbol that speaks to the enduring impact that betrayal can have on our lives. In short, the dagger in the back is a powerful symbol of betrayal that reminds us to be cautious with our trust, to choose our allies carefully, and to always be aware of the potential for treachery.

2. Poisoned Chalice

Poisoned Chalice

The poisoned chalice represents the idea that something that appears to be desirable or beneficial can, in fact, be deadly. It’s a reminder that we should be cautious of those who offer us gifts or opportunities, especially if they seem too good to be true.

In the context of betrayal, the poisoned chalice represents the idea that betrayal can come in the form of a seemingly generous gesture that hides a sinister motive. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the people who seem to have our best interests at heart may, in fact, be working against us.

The poisoned chalice is also a reminder that the consequences of betrayal can be far-reaching and long-lasting. Just as a single sip from a poisoned chalice can lead to death, a single act of betrayal can have a profound impact on our lives.

3. Black Rose

NATROSES Handmade Preserved Roses in Glass Dome
The black rose represents betrayal. See it here.

The black color of the rose symbolizes the darkness and pain of betrayal, while the beauty of the flower itself serves as a reminder that even the most beautiful things can have a dark side.

In the context of betrayal, the black rose represents the idea that trust and love can turn to bitterness and resentment. It’s a symbol of the deep hurt and sadness that come with the realization that someone you cared for deeply has betrayed you.

Moreover, the black rose also represents the idea of finality. Just as a rose withers and dies, a relationship that has been poisoned by betrayal may never be able to recover.

In short, the black rose is a symbol of betrayal that reminds us of the fragility of trust and the pain of a broken heart. It’s a reminder that betrayal can leave a lasting impact on our lives, but also that beauty can be found in even the darkest of moments.

4. Broken Chain

broken chains

The broken chain signifies the severing of a once unbreakable bond. It’s a reminder that betrayal can have a profound impact on our relationships, causing irreparable damage to the trust and loyalty that held us together.

In the context of betrayal, the broken chain represents the idea that a bond that was once strong and unbreakable can be shattered in an instant.

It’s a reminder that even the most loyal and trustworthy relationships can be broken by an act of betrayal. Broken chains remind us of the fragility of trust and the importance of loyalty in our relationships.

This symbol serves as a reminder that even the strongest bonds can be broken by a single act of betrayal and that the consequences of that betrayal can be far-reaching and long-lasting.

5. Shattered Glass

broken glasses

The shattered glass is a symbol of betrayal that represents the destruction and fragmentation of something that was once whole.

It’s a reminder that betrayal can have a profound impact on our lives, shattering our sense of security and leaving us feeling broken and vulnerable.

The shattered glass is a symbol that speaks to the idea of irreparability. Just as a broken piece of glass cannot be restored to its original form, a relationship that has been shattered by betrayal may never be able to be fully repaired.

This symbol also represents the idea that an act of disloyalty can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. It’s a reminder that the hurt and pain caused by betrayal can linger for years, if not a lifetime.

6. Empty Handshake


The empty handshake symbolizes the deceit and false promises of someone who has failed to live up to their word. It’s a reminder that betrayal can come in many forms, from outright lies to broken promises and empty gestures.

The empty handshake is a symbol that represents insincerity. Just as a handshake is meant to be a symbol of trust and mutual respect, an empty handshake represents the lack of these qualities and the hollowness of someone’s words and actions.

It signifies that broken promises and empty gestures can be just as hurtful as outright lies, and that trust is a fragile thing that must be nurtured and protected at all times.

7. Two-Faced Mask

Two-Faced Mask theme
Two-faced masks symbolize betrayal. See it here.

The two-faced mask is a well-known symbol that represents the duality of human nature, the idea that people can put on a facade of goodness and trustworthiness while hiding their true intentions and motives.

The mask serves as a warning that not everything is as it seems, and that appearances can be deceiving. It represents that betrayal can come from those closest to us, those we thought we could trust implicitly.

The two-faced mask also highlights the complexity of human emotions and the struggle between good and evil within us all. It reminds us that the line between loyalty and betrayal is often blurred and that the choices we make can have far-reaching consequences.

In short, the two-faced mask is a potent symbol of the fragility of trust, the duplicity of human nature, and the consequences of betrayal.

8. Snake or Serpent


The serpent is often associated with deception, trickery, and temptation, as seen in the biblical story of Adam and Eve in which the serpent tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and betrays the trust of God.

In Greek mythology, the god Apollo punished the serpent Python for betraying his mother Leto by sending his son, the god Hermes, to kill it. The snake’s betrayal of Leto and its subsequent punishment became a cautionary tale about the consequences of betrayal.

Overall, the snake or serpent has become a potent symbol of betrayal due to its association with deception, temptation, and malevolence in many cultures and mythologies.

9. Trojan Horse

Trojan horse

One of the most infamous symbols of betrayal in history, the Trojan Horse is a testament to the power of deception and the consequences of trusting too easily. It’s a tale of cunning and deceit that has captured the imaginations of people for centuries.

The story goes that the Greeks, unable to conquer the city of Troy, devised a plan to build a massive wooden horse as a gift and leave it outside the gates of the city. The Trojans, believing it to be a peace offering, brought the horse inside the city walls. Little did they know that inside the horse, Greek soldiers were waiting to emerge and destroy the city from within.

The Trojan Horse serves as a warning about the danger of being too trusting and the need to remain vigilant in the face of potential danger. It’s a powerful reminder that betrayal can come from unexpected sources, even those who appear to be friends or allies.

In modern times, the term “Trojan Horse” has come to represent any strategy or tactic that involves gaining someone’s trust in order to betray them later.

It’s a cautionary tale that continues to be relevant today, reminding us that trust must be earned and that we should always be wary of those who seek to gain our trust too easily.

10. Bloody Glove


In the world of crime and mystery, a bloody glove is a classic symbol of betrayal that represents the ultimate act of deception and treachery. It’s an image that is both disturbing and intriguing, capturing the imagination of those who are fascinated by the dark side of human nature.

The symbolism of a bloody glove lies in the connotations of bloodshed and violence. It suggests that the wearer has been involved in some sort of criminal activity, or that they have been caught up in a situation where violence and betrayal are the norms.

Perhaps the most famous example of a bloody glove as a symbol of betrayal comes from the O.J. Simpson case. The image of the glove being tried on in court, and the subsequent acquittal, has become an iconic representation of the dangers of betrayal and the failings of the justice system.

11. Judas Kiss

The Betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot
Judas’ kiss represents Betrayal. See it here.

The symbolism of Judas’ kiss lies in the act of using an intimate gesture to betray someone. It suggests that the betrayer has not only broken the bonds of trust but has also violated the sanctity of a personal relationship.

One of the most famous depictions of Judas’ kiss is in Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting, The Last Supper. In this painting, Judas is shown kissing Jesus on the cheek, revealing his identity as the betrayer.

The image of Judas’ kiss has been reimagined in countless works of art and literature, from Shakespeare’s play Othello to Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone.” It’s a symbol that speaks to the complexities of human relationships and the dangers of misplaced trust.

Overall, Judas’ kiss is a powerful symbol of betrayal that reminds us of the dangers of deception and the importance of loyalty and trust in our personal relationships.

12. Broken Mirror

Broken mirror

The broken mirror is a lesser-known symbol of betrayal, but it’s a powerful one that carries a deep meaning. Unlike other symbols of betrayal that represent external actions, the broken mirror represents a person’s internal state after a betrayal.

The symbolism of the broken mirror lies in the idea of a shattered self-image and loss of identity. When someone experiences a betrayal, they can feel like their sense of self is broken into a million pieces, just like a shattered mirror. They may question their judgment, their beliefs, and even their own worth as a person.

The broken mirror is also associated with bad luck and superstition. In many cultures, breaking a mirror is seen as a sign of impending doom, and it’s said to bring seven years of bad luck.

The broken mirror remains a haunting symbol of betrayal that captures the emotional turmoil and internal struggle that comes with being betrayed. It reminds us that the wounds of betrayal can be deep and long-lasting, but with time and healing, we can pick up the broken pieces and rebuild our shattered selves.

13. Black Dahlia Murder Case

Black Dahlia, Red Rose
A symbol of betrayal. See it here.

The Black Dahlia is the name given to Elizabeth Short, who was brutally murdered in 1947. The case is typically associated with betrayal because of how violent and gruesome it was.

But there are alternative ways to interpret its symbolism. One possible interpretation is that the Black Dahlia represents the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing every moment.

Her tragic and senseless death serves as a reminder that life is precious and can be taken away at any moment, urging us to live our lives to the fullest and appreciate the time we have with loved ones.

The Black Dahlia also symbolizes the human desire for justice and closure. The unsolved nature of her murder has left many unanswered questions and unresolved emotions, representing the struggle for closure in the face of betrayal and loss.

14. Wilted Rose

Wilted Rose

The wilted rose can symbolize betrayal because it was once beautiful and full of life but has now withered and died.

This transformation from a vibrant, living flower to a wilted, lifeless one can represent the betrayal of trust or love, as something that was once alive and vibrant has now been destroyed or taken away.

The image of a wilted rose can also evoke feelings of sadness, loss, and disappointment, further emphasizing the emotional impact of betrayal.

The loss of something once beautiful and cherished can be a painful and traumatic experience, and the wilted rose can serve as a poignant symbol of that loss. Additionally, the image of a wilted rose can be associated with a lack of care or neglect, further emphasizing the sense of betrayal.

If the rose has been allowed to wither and die due to a lack of attention or care, it can represent the failure of someone to uphold their promises or responsibilities, leading to feelings of betrayal and disappointment.

15. Shattered Arrow


An arrow is often used as a symbol of direction, purpose, and focused action. It represents a clear path toward a specific goal or target. When an arrow is shattered, it signifies a disruption or failure of that path, suggesting that something has gone wrong in the pursuit of that goal.

In the context of betrayal, a shattered arrow can represent the broken promises and failed trust that often accompany such an experience.

It can suggest that the path towards a shared goal or relationship has been disrupted or derailed, often due to the actions of one party who has broken their promises or acted in a way that undermines the trust and mutual respect that’s necessary for a healthy relationship.

The shattered arrow can also represent the emotional pain and trauma that often result from betrayal, as the experience of broken trust and a fractured relationship can be deeply painful and difficult to heal from.

Wrapping Up

Whether it’s the black dahlia, the wilted rose, or the shattered arrow, these symbols of betrayal hold a deep and enduring significance for many people, representing loss, disappointment, and emotional pain.

However, by understanding the multiple interpretations and meanings that can be attributed to these symbols, we can better navigate the complexities of betrayal, and work towards building relationships based on honesty, loyalty, and mutual respect. By exploring the symbolism of betrayal, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships and ultimately move towards greater emotional and spiritual growth.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.