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Throughout history, certain symbols have served as powerful reminders of trust and loyalty to people of different cultures around the world. From flowers to animals and cultural emblems, we’ve created a list of symbols to let you express someone how you feel and remind yourself of what’s truly important.
Whether it’s a door, a treasure chest, or a secret, keys open things up and let us tap into the unknown. Beyond their practical use, keys affect our lives in various ways. Being entrusted with the key to someone’s precious possessions only tells us of the trust and loyalty he or she feels towards us.
The connection of keys to the symbolism of trust likely stemmed from a medieval custom of giving someone the key to the city. During medieval times, European cities were walled, and gates were locked at night. The key to the city was granted to trusted residents and visitors who could enter or leave the city at their will. This served as a gesture of trust and loyalty, knowing they wouldn’t be returning with an army to siege the city.
Nowadays, the gesture of presenting keys to the city honors distinguished persons, trusted visitors, guests and residents of the city. For instance, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg gave the key to New York to 30 individuals, including the Dalai Lama and the New York Yankees, as an honor for their actions and contributions.
The Claddagh Symbol
Recognized by two hands holding a crowned heart, the Claddagh represents love, loyalty and friendship. The Irish symbol is a traditional design in engagement and wedding rings, and it can be traced back to the 1700s, when silversmith Richard Joyce created the first Claddagh ring. Queen Victoria and Princess Grace of Monaco also sported the symbol in their rings.
The Claddagh is composed of different elements and each has significant meaning. The hands symbolize trust and friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown stands for loyalty and fidelity.
In ancient times, the handshake was thought to be a way to convey trust and peaceful intentions. By extending one’s right hand, strangers could prove that they weren’t holding any weapons. Some scholars even speculate that the up-and-down motion of the gesture was meant to dislodge any daggers or knives hidden in one’s sleeve.
A handshake holds deeper meaning when they occur between adversaries. In a 9th century relief, Assyrian King Shalmaneser III is depicted shaking the hand of a Babylonian leader to seal an alliance. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey handshakes serve as the bond of the oath. In ancient Rome, the gesture was used as a symbol of loyalty and friendship.
Sunflowers received their name simply because their faces literally follow the sun all day, making them the perfect symbol of loyalty. At dawn, they face east and greet the sun, then slowly turn west as the sun moves. During the night, these flowers slowly turn back east again to catch the rays of the morning sun. Due to this movement, sunflowers are now used to symbolize loyalty to one person, as well as to a goal or plan.
For centuries, this flower has been used as symbol of the human desire for loyalty and faithful love. Its name was inspired by an old German folktale that narrates the true love of a knight and his lady. While they were strolling along the riverbank, the knight attempted to pick the dainty blooms, but he fell into the waters. As he was swept away by the river, he threw the bouquet to his lady and cried out, “Forget me not!”. Today, these little blue flowers represent steadfast love, loyalty and trust.
For the Chinese, bamboo symbolizes loyalty, modesty and high moral standards, making it a popular theme in literature, music and decorative arts. Its meanings stem from its physical appearance, as it’s straight and resilient on the outside, although hollow in the middle. It’s said to represent the idealized moral integrity of Chinese scholars, known as junzi. In paintings, bamboo is depicted as a symbol of longevity and is one of the three friends of winter, along with pines and plums.
Two Golden Fish
In Tibetan Buddhism, the sea is commonly associated with the world of trials and suffering, and the two golden fish stand for loyalty and harmony of both platonic and romantic couples. This symbol is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, and also represents happiness, freedom, prosperity and good fortune. In Chinese tradition, vases and other ornaments bearing the motif are popular gifts for newlyweds.
Throughout history, wolves have been seen as faithful animals that remain loyal to their partner. In Norse mythology, they have both positive and negative associations, but the two wolves of Odin, Geri and Freki, are depicted as loyal companions.
In Native American culture, wolves are regarded as medicine beings associated with loyalty, courage, and strength. These creatures are perceived as wise, and the wolf symbol is only given to those who are capable to lead. There are even wolf gods and spirits, and the Pawnee people call themselves the Wolf People.
They say that an elephant never forgets, making this majestic creature a symbol of loyalty and friendship. Research indicates that elephants have strong social memories to recognize humans, family members and friends even when separated for decades. What’s more, these creatures grieve over the bodies of dead herd members. Since they have strong social bonds and family values, elephants remind us to honor our relationships and put our loved ones’ needs above our own. As such, they’re a perfect symbol of trust and loyalty.
A Maori symbol of loyalty and friendship, the pikorua has several variations, from a figure-eight shape to double and triple twist forms. The symbol was probably inspired by the pikopiko fern that grows in regions of New Zealand, or the weave pattern of kete baskets.
While the single twist variation represents the infinite partnership of two individuals who always find their way back to each other, the double twist symbolizes the connection of a group of people. When it comes to the triple twist variation, it stands for the relationship between groups, peoples and cultures, symbolizing trust and friendship.
A symbol of religious significance, Nyame Nti represents trust or faith in God. It’s one of the Adinkra symbols that represent a belief, philosophy, or proverb of the Asante people of Ghana. The words Nyame Nti literally translates to because of God or by God’s grace. The symbol itself is a stylized leaf or plant, associated with the belief that God provides food for people to live and survive—and without Him life isn’t possible.
Another Adinkra symbol, Nkontim represents loyalty and readiness to serve. While it looks like the swastika symbol, the Nkontim is a four-armed spiral. The term Nkontim translates as the hair of the Queen’s servant. In the past, royalty and spiritual leaders from Ghana wore clothes stamped with the symbol, especially during festivals and sacred ceremonies.
There are many reasons why people are attracted to symbols that represent trust and loyalty. They’re stronger than written and spoken language, and let people communicate how they feel. Most of these symbols remind us of the qualities needed for lasting friendship, love, commitment, and even faith. After all, trust and loyalty are what makes our relationships stronger and more special.