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Gravestone Symbols
Their Meaning
All tombstone emblems are from tombstones located in Grayson County cemeteries.

777     333 International Order of 12 Knights & Daughters of Tabor
AcornSymbol of potential, life, fertility & immortality

Alpha and Omega
The beginning and the end

American Flag Courage, Pride

Anchor Well grounded hope, Steadfastness, Eternal life 18th & 19th Century

Angel A Guide to Heaven 18th & 19th Century
Angel, Flying over infant's grave
Angel, Praying Advocate asking God for mercy on behalf of the deceased
Angel, TrumpetingRebirth, Resurrection

Arch Passage to heaven, Victory over death 18th & 19th Century
Army Air ForceWW II insignia for Army Air Force 9th Air Force 1943

Arrow Mortality, Martyrdom 17th & 18th Century


Hell 18th Century

Bee flying with a gun
Seebees - US Navy
Beehive Domestic virtue, Faith, Education, Human industry


Religious faith, Religion

Bird Peace, messenger of God. The most common birds found on gravestones are doves.
Bird, deadSparrows traditionally represent wild freedom - a dead sparrow may be symbolic of the end of freedom. Answer According to the Bible, God is aware of all things upon earth, even the death of a sparrow. These verses are to express that no soul is too insignificant for God to be aware of their suffering (Matthew 10:29-31)   

Dove - Dead
A dead Dove represents a prematurely shortened life
source: Magnolias & Peaches Tombstone Iconograpy

Bird, flying Ressurection 18th & 19th Century
BLEBrotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

Boat A voyage or journey to the other side

Book or Bible Knowledge, Open Heart, Deceased's Lifetime Accomplishments 18th & 19th Century
Bouquets Grief, Sorrow 19th Century
BRCA Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America


Life Cycle19th Century

Branches - severed

Mortality18th Century
Bud, broken Renewal of life, Loss of a young soul

Military Profession, Resurrection 18th & 19th Century
Butterfly Rurrection, Early death 19th Century
Calla LilyBeauty18th & 19th Century
Candle The Spirit of the Soul

Candle, snuffed

Mortality, Time 17th Century
CastleReference to the Kingdom of Heaven
Chain, broken links Death of a Spouse
Chain, three links Independent Order of the Oddfellows
Chalice The Sacrements
Chalice with a CrossChristian Church
CherubThe graves of children

Circle Eternal Life
Circle-Triangle SymbolAlcoholics Anonymous
Citizen of the Republic of TexasMarks the graves of people whose residence was in The Republic of Texas before February 19, 1846


Passage of Time 18th Century
Transition to the afterlife; 
Heavenly Rewards
18th Century

Coat of Arms

Lineage, Status, Nobility17th & 18th Century


Mortality, Death 17th & 18th Century
Column Noble life of the deceased or the head of the family
Column, Broken Decay / Loss of the Head of the Family
Compass & Square Mason


Rebirth, Fertility
Cross, Celtic Taking the form of a cross within a circle represents eternity
Cross, Maltese with Firefighter EquipmentFighters Emblem
Cross, Presbyterian Presbyterian Religion

Cross, Roman or Latin Came about as a result of the Great Schism between Eastern Orthodoxy & Roman Catholicism
Faith, Eternity
Cross with Crown Sovereignty of the Lord
Cross with Flame Methodist Religion

Cross with Jesus Christ The Crucifixion; The Sacrifice of Christ

Crown Glory of life after death 18th Century
Crown with Palm Fronds Romans used palm fronds as a symbol of victory. Christian adapted them to symbolize triumph over death
Daffodil / Narcissus Rebirth, Ressurection 18th & 19th Century
Daisy Innocence of a child 18th & 19th Century
DARDaughters of the American Revolution


Mortality 17th & 18th Century

Dog Loyalty, Fidelity, Vigilance
Dove Innocence, Peace 18th & 19th Century
Dove, Ascending Soul rising to Heaven 18th & 19th Century
Dove, Decending Decent from Heaven to accompany soul to Heaven 18th & 19th Century
Dove, Flying Resurrection 18th & 19th Century
Dove, holding an olive branch Soul has reached divine peace in Heaven 18th & 19th Century
Drapery Mourning, Mortality
Dragon Imperial Power
Eagle Deceased was a veteran 18th & 19th Century
Eagle clutching Arrows with Shield United States Army
double headed
Emblem of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masons (32nd Degree).

The Double-Headed Eagle of Lagash is used as an emblem by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. There are many meanings attached to this symbol. It was introduced in France in the early 1760s as the emblem of the Kadosh degree

The double-headed eagle symbol is for the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. The number 32 inside the triangle represents the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite.
Eagle with F O ESymbol of the Fraternal Order of Eagles,
a fraternal organization.
Easter Lily Purity, Chastity 18th & 19th Century

Effigies, winged
Flight of the soul 18th Century
Eyes God's watchful eye 19th Century
FBCFriendship, Charity, Benevolence - found on Knights of Pythias Swords

Father Time

Passage of time 17th & 18th Century
Female Figure Sorrow, Grief
Fern Humility, Sincerity

Finger pointing upward The pathway to Heaven
Fish Spiritual nourishment, Faith, Christianity
FlagUsually found on a Veteran's grave

Flame Life, Resurrection.
Fleur-de-lisFaith, wisdom and valor; The Trinity, passion and love.
Flower Immortality, Fragility of life 18th & 19th Century
Fruit Eternity
G.A.R. Deceased was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic
Garland Victory over death 18th & 19th Century
GideonGideons International - the oldest association of Christian businessmen and professional  men in the United States of American founded in 189920th Century
Globe, wingedSymbolic of Creator; wings represent "God over all"

Grapes Blood of Christ; Sacrament 17th & 18th Century

Grim Reaper

Inevitability of death
Gate Pearly Gates, Entrance to Heaven


Judgement 18th Century
Hammer & Saw Building tools; Woodwork
Hammer & SquareCarpenter
Harp Praise to God; Hope

Hand, chopping

Mortality, Sudden Death 18th Century
Hand holding chain with broken link Death of a family member
Hands, clasped Farewell and the hope of meeting again in eternity
Hand, clasping a crossSalvation

Hands, outstreached
Healing Power; Physician 18th & 19th Century
Hands praying Asking God for Eternal Live 18th & 19th Century
Hand pointing downGod Reaching Down for the Soul
Hand pointing up Pathway to Heaven 19th Century
Hands reaching for the Lord's hand Faith that the Lord will help us enter Heaven, Eternal Life
Hands with Rosery Beads Catholic Religion

Farewell to earthly matters 19th Century
Heart Love, Devotion, Joy, and Mortality 18th & 19th Century

Horse Death - White horse represents good; Black horse represents evil

Horse & BuggyNational Rural Letter Carriers Association


Passage of time 17th & 18th Century
HummingbirdOften found in infants' gravestones.  Usually just decorative
IHSIHS stands for the first three letters of Jesus' name in the Greek alphabet.

Another meaning for IHS, contributed by Jim Miller:
This symbol also stands for "in hoc signo", Latin for "by this sign we conquer", referring to the cross.
I.T.U.International Telegraph Union
Ivy Friendship, eternal life and immortality
Jesus holding a lamb
Key Key to unlock gates of heaven; a learned  person; knowledge of the scriptures
Knights of Pythias An International Fraternity that promotes univeral peace


Marriage, Unity
Lamb innocence 19th Century
LampWisdom, Faithfulness19th Century

Laurel Worldly accomplishments, Heroism
Lily Purity, Chastity, Resurrection 18th & 19th Century
Lily of the Valley Rebirth, Innocence, Purity, Virginity 18th & 19th Century

Strength, Courage
LionsLions Club ~ a service membership organization


Purity, Creation, Rebirth
LyreOften have a broken string, symbolizing the end of life. Lyres are usually found on the graves of musicians.


Emblem of Judasim
Moon Death, Rebirth, or Victory
Morning Glory Beginning of life along with Beauty, Youth, Love 18th & 19th Century

Myrtle Leaves

Undying love, Peace
Nurse HatMedical Nurse
OES, 5 pointed star Order of the Eastern Star
Oak Leaf Long Life, Strength, Endurance, Faith and Virtue
Olive Branch Peace, Fruitfulness, Forgiveness, Purification,
Humanity, Victory


Wisdom, Watchfulness
Ox Patience, Strength


Palm Success, Victory over death, Eternal peace
Passion Cross K.C.C.H. (Knight Commander Court of Honor)
Masonic Honor


Mortality 17th Century
Pine Tree, Cones, Branches, Needles Immortality


The harvest, The reaping of one’s life


Eternal sleep 18th & 19th Century


Passage into Heaven 17th & 18th Century

Portrait Likeness of the Deceased 18th & 19th Century


Religious Profession 17th & 18th Century
Purple HeartExhibits a bust of bust/profile of George Washington; awarded to soldiers for wounds received during war and to civilians during terrorists attacks20th Century
Pyramid Resurrection, Eternal life, Enlightenment, Spiritual attainment


Humility, Gentleness, Self-sacrifice
Rainbow Union or fulfillment of the promise of resurrection
Rifle Military Service 18th & 19th Century


Awakening, Vigilance, Resurrection 18th Century

Rosary Catholic Religion, Constant prayer for the deceased person
Rose, fully opened Love, Beauty, Victory, Triumph, Purity 18th & 19th Century

Rosebud Death early in life 18th Century


S. A. R.Sons of the American Revolution, a fraternal society that was organized in 1889 for male descendants of American Revolutionary War veterans.

Scroll Life, Time


Death, The final harvest 17th & 18th Century
Shell Baptism, Rebirth 18th & 19th Century
Scallop Shell with a  Sleeping ChildUsed exclusively for children under age of 6 years
Scallop shell is a symbol of transformation
Sleeping child is a symbol of a pure and innocent soul
1870s - World War II
Ship The church, Life on the sea like that of a fisherman or Sailor. 18th & 19th Century
Shoes Empty shoes with one overturned - loss of a child


Mortality 17th Century
Shriners Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine


Death, Life's brevity on earth 17th & 18th Century
Skull Death, Mortality
Sleeping Child Victorian Era symbol of Death


Temptation 18th & 19th Century

Snakes, hooped

Eternity 18th & 19th Century
Southern Cross of Honor Usually found on tombstone of a Confederate Veteran
Spinning Wheel over Distaff filled with Flax Daughters of the American Revolution
Square & CompassUsually have the letter "G" in the middle. Found on gravestones belonging to members of the Freemasons (Masons).
Staff of Aesculapius w/ wingsMedical Field
Staff of Asklepios with wings & double snakes (Caduceus)Medical Doctor

Staff of Asklepios with wings, double snakes & the letter "D" (Caduceus

Staff of Aesculapius w/ wings & the letter "V" superimposed (Caduceus)

Star Divine Guidance
Star, five pointed Star of Bethlehem

Star, six pointed

Star of David - typically used as a symbol of Judaism; the star is actually made of two triangles

Divine Protection
Sun The soul rising to heaven 18th & 19th Century


Devotion to God 18th & 19th Century
Swallow Motherhood or the spirit of children
Sword Represents martyrdom; crossed swords are found on
grave stones of veterans, especially officers
17th & 18th Century

Swords, crossed

Ranking Military Person 18th Century


Earthly sorrow, Remembrance 18th Century


Enlightenment, Zeal, Liberty, Immortality 19th Century
"T" (vertilcal) over letter "O" (horizontal)Insignia for 90th Infantry; "Tough 'Ombres"20th Century
Tree Life, Human fragility 18th Century
Tree Trunk, broken Premature death, Mourning
Triangle The Holy Trinity


Mortality, Death


Resurrection, Entry into Heaven 18th Century


Love, Passion 18th & 19th Century
United Church of ChristEmblem of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones & Markers21st Century

U.C.V.United Confederate Veterans
UPSUnited Postal Service
U.S. Calvarylate 19th Century
U.S. Navy
Urn The soul, Immortality, Penitence 19th Century
Vacant Chair Death of a child
Veteran Veteran of World War II


Wine, Blood of Christ 18th Century
Violet Humility 18th & 19th Century
Wedding RingsMarriage
Weeping WillowMourning, Grief, Sadness, Lamentation19th Century
Wheat Divine Harvest 19th Century
Wheat Shaft Old age, Fruitful life

The cycle of life, Enlightenment, Spiritual power
Wings with Anchor U.S. Navy

Wings with Crest U.S. Air Force Pilot
Woodmen of the World Membership in the WOW fraternal organization
Wreath Victory of death over life 18th & 19th Century
Wrenches, CrossedMechanic

List of Gravestone Symbols and Their Meanings

Gravestone Abbreviations

All symbols found on tombstones in Cemeteries in Grayson County, Texas

Cemetery Research
Elaine Nall Bay

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