The top 10 Irish Celtic symbols and their meanings

We take a look at the ten most popular Irish Celtic symbols and their meanings.

10 Irish Celtic symbols and their meanings

The term “Celts” refers to tribes of people that shared similar traditions, customs, language, and culture and dominated Western Europe and the British Isles from as far back as 1200 B.C.

Much of this unique cultural heritage still exists today in Ireland, where the Irish language is still spoken and where people celebrate and remain passionate about Celtic roots.

While Ireland has changed drastically over centuries, elements of ancient Celtic communities live on today. One of the biggest examples of this is Irish Celtic symbols.

Primitive and ornate, these striking visuals will undoubtedly evoke memories of the Emerald Isle, but did you ever wonder what they imply? Here are 10 Irish Celtic symbols explained.

10. Carolingian Cross – a cross made out of four uniform arms

The Carolingian Cross is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This Irish Celtic symbol is a cross made out of four uniform arms. It is a more elaborate version of Brigid’s Cross or the Celtic Cross.

It is said that the Carolingian Cross represents unity, balance, and the eternity of God.

9. Claddagh ring – love, loyalty, and friendship

The Claddagh ring is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This is less of an ancient Celtic symbol and more of an Irish contemporary tradition, and yet it is wholly connected with Ireland. The Claddagh ring first spawned from Galway and it is intended to be given to a loved one.

The ring is said to symbolise love, loyalty, and friendship.

8. Celtic Tree of Life – imagination and intuition

The Tree of Life is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This stunning Irish Celtic symbol is synonymous with the Emerald Isle.

The image that depicts a tree rich in roots and flourishing overground suggests an intrinsic bond and oneness with nature and the elements.

Depending on which tree is shown in the illustration, the symbol can have slightly different meanings. For example, if it is a willow tree, the symbol suggests imagination and intuition.

7. The Celtic cross – light or energy

The Celtic cross is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This symbol is heavily associated with Ireland and can be seen in the flesh in abundance around the Emerald Isle.

It consists of a traditional Christian cross with a ring interlocking and surrounding its intersection. The Celtic cross circle suggests a source of light or energy.

6. The triskele – body-mind-spirit

The triskele is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This is yet another Irish Celtic symbol that references three distinct points (likely alluding to the holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

According to studies, the Triskele is one of the oldest symbols known in Irish tradition. Authentic examples of this ancient artwork can be seen at Newgrange prehistoric monument in County Meath.

The name derived from the Greek word “Triskeles,” meaning “three legs.” Other than the holy trinity, some suggest this design alludes life-death-rebirth or body-mind-spirit.

5. The Awen (the Three Rays of Light) – essence

The Awen is one of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols

This is a Celtic symbol that can often be observed in ancient Irish tradition. The word Awen means “essence” or “inspiration.”

Like many symbols in Irish Celtic tradition, it offers an illustration with three key components.

4. The harp – royalty

The harp is Ireland's national emblem

The Harp is more than an Irish Celtic symbol. In fact, Ireland is so inextricably linked with the symbol of the harp that it is the only country in the entire world to have a musical instrument as its national emblem.

The Irish Harp has long been associated with royalty. In fact, it’s believed that the strings of the harp represent the arms of the king.

3. Brigid’s cross – peace and goodness

Brigid's cross is a prominent symbol from Ireland

This is a Celtic Irish symbol that is likely to be recognised by most people who have spent much time in Ireland.

Brigid’s cross was often a craft project when in school, and it can often be seen hanging in traditional family homes in Ireland.

It is a Christian symbol linked to Brigid of the Tuatha de Danaan and linked in Irish mythology to the gift of peace and goodness.

2. The shamrock – luck and the Christian Holy Trinity

The shamrock may be Ireland's best-known symbol

The symbol of a shamrock is as Irish as it gets. This is, in fact, the national flower of Ireland, and with its three leaves (do you see a pattern?), the Irish Celts believed that the shamrock leaf brings luck.

It is also linked to St. Patrick who used it as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity. In the 19th-century, it also became a symbol of nationalism and rebellion.

1. The trinity knot – eternal, spiritual life and being

The trinity knot is a memorable Celtic symbol

This is potentially one of the most memorable Irish Celtic symbols that is synonymous with Ireland.

Also called The Triquetra, this Irish Celtic symbol consists of a knotted triangular shape, made up of one continuous, unbroken line. Oftentimes, the Trinity Knot is illustrated with a circle interlocking the knot.

This Celtic symbol means eternal, spiritual life and being. It is also supposed to, in the Christian religion, suggest the holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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Paris Donnatella is an avid writer and traveller. From a young age, nomadic parents placed a strong emphasis on education in real experience and the outdoors - a trait which has carried through her life and into her career. She has travelled Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia and still claims that wanderlust tempts her daily. Saying that she believes Ireland - her homeland - is the most enchanting place she has ever been and is passionate about documenting the Emerald Isle. Chances are, you can find her drinking coffee in some hidden gem cafe in Dublin, planning her next big trip.