Symbols of Hope and What They Stand For

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The power of symbolism comes from evoking certain feelings and emotions with just a glance – a quick look at an emblem can instantly make you feel good or bad without the need for any words. In this article, we’ll take a look at 15 different symbols of hope to give you a boost of encouragement.

First, what exactly is hope?

It is indubitably connected with uncertainty and anticipation over something that has yet to happen. It is keeping your faith that things will turn out for the better, regardless of what you might be feeling or what the situation might be in the present. It allows you to hang on and recognize that things always have a way of turning into something great if you wait – or hope – long enough.

Symbols of hope list
Symbols of Hope

Different cultures and religions employ various symbols to inspire hope. Here we’ve taken 15 of the most popular and globally recognized symbols of hope for you:

Dove

This majestic white bird has acquired quite a lot of symbolisms across the years. It represents beauty, freedom, and peace, but Biblically speaking, doves are poignant representations of hope.

According to Hebrew scripture, God once wiped out the world in a massive flood, and only those aboard Noah’s Ark were saved. Once the flood subsided, Noah sent out a dove from the ark to see if it was already safe for them to step out of the ark. When the bird came back dry and with an olive branch in its beak, they knew it was safe to come out. Hence, the dove became a symbol of hope and the ability to start again after an immense tragedy. 

Olive Branch

Of course, the olive branch collected by the dove in Noah’s story also became a strong symbol for hope that things can look up after the darkest of days. However, the olive tree is also considered representative of hope and prosperity in ancient Greek history. In the 5th century, Athens was burned to the ground under the orders of King Xerxes. Afterwards, it’s said that an olive tree was the first to sprout from the ruins. Thus, Athenians associated the tree with survival, resilience, and hope that good things can rise up even from the most tragic of ruins.

Seedlings

Seedlings, especially when they are growing out of a barren land or cracked concrete, symbolize that hope springs eternal. Plants are symbols of life and sustenance, so seedlings mark the beginning of a productive life.

Still, there is never any certainty that seedlings will grow to become full-sized plants. They are subject to the harsh realities of nature, so all it does represent is the hope of survival and optimism that this seed, which bears the gift of life within, could survive in spite of everything. 

Butterflies

Just like seedlings, butterflies undergo a long and difficult process to reach their full, majestic form. A caterpillar has to wait for a considerable amount of time in a cocoon before it can grow colorful, beautiful wings. It is thus symbolic of patience, endurance, and hope for the future.

Additionally, Native Americans think of butterflies as their messenger to the Gods. Anyone who can catch an elusive butterfly is urged to whisper their deepest hopes and wishes to it, before releasing the winged animal back to nature. It’s believed that the butterfly will then deliver the things you hoped for straight to the Gods, who have the power to grant them.

Cross

According to Christian tradition, God saved mankind from eternal damnation by sacrificing his own son, Jesus Christ, by way of crucifixion. The cross, therefore, bears the symbolism of hope for salvation. Christians look at the cross and are reminded to hope that God’s unconditional love can redeem them from anything.

Anchor

Aside from the cross, Christians also consider the anchor as a symbol of hope. This is because of a verse from the Bible, which reads Hope…is an anchor of the soul, sure and firm. In many instances, the Holy Book also referred to Jesus Christ himself as an anchor with which redemption is fastened safely and securely.

Sunrise

Many cultures believe that the new day also brings a new start, which makes sunrise a symbol for hope that good things are about to come. In art theory, images that convey something ending is usually set on a dark or sunset-lit background, but artwork that uses the soft gold tones of the sunrise often evoke feelings of hope and optimism. 

Wishing Well

Wishing wells are filled with the dreams and hopes of people who don’t mind offering up coins in exchange for their wishes. Wishing wells, or fountains, thus carry the multitude of hope and wishes many people yearn for. These are excellent symbols of hope. It’s believed that any hope or dream you speak into the well after you toss in a coin of any denomination will come true. Even if the dream does not end up coming true, the wish made in a wishing well is enough to sustain one’s hope, even just for a while.

Rainbow

There’s a rainbow always after the rain. You may not always see a giant one in the sky, but you will surely spot a couple of small ones on the ground, where the fallen raindrops meet shining light. Because it almost always shows up after heavy rain, rainbows have been associated with hope that good things follow the darkest of storms.

In the Bible, God created the rainbow to immortalize His promise that He would never again hit the world with a massive, destructive flood. Because of this, rainbows are believed to signify that the worst is over, and the world can hope once more.

8-pointed Star

An 8-pointed star drawn within a circle, with another, smaller circle in the center, holds several meanings, including hope. The 8-pointed star is an important image in Native American culture. Also called the Star Knowledge, this symbol is used to mark celestial alignments, which are in turn used to predict things that are about to happen.  Since the 8-pointed star is considered a window to the future, it is said to give people hope that there is always something good to look forward to in the future.

Triquetra

A symbol that takes a favored place in Celtic culture is the triquetra, which is composed of three interlocking ovals. The number three represents all the powerful trinities and triads, such as the past, present, and the future, life, death and rebirth, as well as the earth, sea, and sky, among others. It symbolizes unity among three of a kind, which in turn gives the people hope that regardless of what happens, the world will find its balance and everything will be in harmony.

Shamrock

For the Druids, the best things came in threes. While the four-leaf clover signifies good luck, the three-leaf clover, or shamrock, is thought to represent hope. More specifically, the three leaves are said to represent faith, love, and hope. It’s no wonder these leaves are popularly turned or incorporated into jewelry charms.

Celtic Tree of Life

Another symbol of hope that originated from Celtic tradition is the tree of life, which is best described as an oak tree with roots so healthy and so strong that they almost perfectly mirror the branches that are reaching up to the sky. It is a strong symbol for wisdom and longevity, but it also functions as a representation of hope that the Gods can hear people’s wishes and dreams. This is because the Celts believed that strong trees could convey their thoughts and messages to the Gods.

Cornucopia

The cornucopia is a significant symbol in ancient Greece. It features a wicker basket full of fruits, vegetables, grain and other types of food. Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, who people looked to for abundance and nourishment, was represented by the cornucopia. Because of this association, the cornucopia has become a symbol of hope for good things.

Swallow

Swallows are birds that venture farther out to the sea than other bird. Due to this, it becomes the first sign to sailors that they are nearing land. Those who go on long trips in the water think that swallows symbolize hope that their tiring voyage is finally ending.

Wrapping Up

Hope is a powerful thing, which explains why humans have adopted many symbols to invoke the feeling of positively looking forward to the future. Precisely because hope springs eternal, it won’t be surprising if new symbols of hope emerge in the future. For now, the above list showcases some of the most popular hope symbols.