Triquetra: the history and meaning of the triple knot

You have probably admired this iconic Celtic symbol in artwork and jewellery. But what does it mean? Delve into the history and meaning of the Triquetra: the ancient triple knot.

The Triquetra is, without doubt, one of the most popular and enduring triple knot designs. The word literally means “three-cornered”, and the symbol is composed of three interlaced arcs.

The line is unbroken and never-ending and is said to represent many things, such as unity, protection, and everlasting life. Like many knots, it can be seen as a Celtic symbol for strength.

Variations of the symbol have endured throughout history, adorning architecture and artwork for millennia. Its current form has become a common feature in tattoos and jewellery in Ireland and beyond.

The triple knot is something you have probably encountered many times throughout your life, but what do you know about its history and meaning? Find all you ever wanted to know about the Triquetra below.

IB4UD’s top 5 facts about Celtic knots

  • Celtic knots are intricate designs with continuous lines that weave and interlace without beginning or end.
  • The designs of Celtic knots are influenced by nature, incorporating elements such as animals, geometric patterns, and plants, like the Celtic Tree of Life.
  • The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript from the 9th century, showcases elaborate examples of Celtic knotwork.
  • The intricate patterns of Celtic knots were often used in ancient Celtic jewellery, manuscripts, and stone carvings.
  • The meaning attributed to Celtic knots can vary, with interpretations ranging from religious symbolism to Celtic symbols expressing heritage and cultural identity.

History of the Triquetra – a historical debate

The Triquetra: triple knot is an important Irish symbol.
Credit: Flickr / Margaret Almon

The origins of this popular design have been the subject of some debate by historians. While some claim it to be of Celtic heritage, others view it as much older.

The triple knot can be dated as far back as the Iron Age, but such symbols became frequent from around the 4th-century BC appearing on animated ceramics of Anatolia and Persia, as well as on early Lycian coins.

It has also been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins, as well as on Indian heritage sites that are over 5,000 years old.

The symbol is often found in “Insular Art” from the 7th century. Also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, this is art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Britain.

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing the iconic Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin, then you may have spotted the Triquetra in its ancient pages.

READ ALSO: Celtic knots: the history, variations, and meaning

Uses and meanings of the Triquetra – a versatile symbol

The Celtic knot features in the Book of Kells.
Credit: @thebookofkellsofficial / Instagram

The Triquetra has had many uses throughout history across countless cultures.

In Ireland, it has sometimes been used in a Christian context to represent the holy trinity, similarly to the shamrock. Because of this, it is often referred to as the ‘trinity knot’.

In its original form of vesicae pisces, the design incorporates the fish, a popular Christian symbol. Occasionally, you may see the Trinity knot enclosed within a circle as a means of emphasising unity or eternity.

Some neo-pagans and groups practising new age spirituality also use the Triquetra, or Trinity knot, in their spiritual practice.

The number three is a significant number for these people. Is it is said to represent the three stages of life, including life, death, and rebirth, and thus it is a symbol of eternity or eternal life.

The Trinity knot also represents the tripartite division of the three trimesters of pregnancy; or the elements of earth, fire, and water.

The Triquetra, or Trinity knot, can also represent concepts such as the neo-pagan triple goddess symbol; past, present, and future; body, mind, and soul; or the Celtic concept of land, sea, and sky.

Some believe that the Celtic knot can offer protection against malevolent forces. If you are the superstitious type, perhaps it is not a bad idea to incorporate this into the home if you wish to dispel any negative energy.

READ ALSO: CELTIC SYMBOLS and Meanings: the top 10 explained

Use of the Trinity knot today – decorative and superstitious

Credit: Instagram @nur_tattoo_art

In recent times, the popularity of the triple knot has seen a massive resurgence, particularly since the Celtic Revival of the 19th century.

In Ireland and Britain, as well as North America, many people have used the popular symbol as a way of reconnecting with their Celtic heritage and religious meaning.

The Triquetra, or Trinity knot, has been incorporated into Irish jewellery, often found as a design element in Claddaghs and other wedding or engagement rings. Some people have also chosen to take a more permanent approach, choosing the design for a tattoo.

You might also recognise the symbol from the popular 90s TV show Charmed. The show centres around three sisters with supernatural powers and this symbol adorns their ‘Book of Shadows’, which contains their spells and lore.

READ ALSO: 10 crazy cool Irish tattoos on Instagram

The Triquetra on the mountainside in County Sligo.
Credit: Facebook / Kevin Warren

If you ever get the opportunity to visit County Sligo, you may spot the Triquetra in a beautiful man-made design in natural surroundings.

The sylvan Trinity Knot, or Celtic knot, is an impressive example of woodland art and was planted by the McCabe family in the 1980s. It can be viewed from the nearby N16 Sligo to Manorhamilton road on the slopes of the Tomór mountain.

The prominence of the Triquetra triple knot illustrates just how significant the symbol has been for Irish cultures, people, and belief systems. The influence of Celtic culture and imagery has managed to enjoy impressive longevity here.

Your questions answered about the Triquetra

If you still have questions about this famous Irish triple knot, we have you sorted! Below, we’ve compiled some of our readers’ most popular questions that have been asked about the Triquetra online.

What does the Triquetra symbol mean in Christianity?

The Triquetra, or Trinity knot, has various meanings. In Christianity, it often symbolises the three stages of life, and thus eternal life, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Does Triquetra mean family?

Yes, one translation of the Triquetra Celtic knot is family.

Is the Triquetra Norse or Celtic?

The symbol appears in both Norse and Celtic history. However, historians are divided over its original origin.


The DARA KNOT: meaning, history & design EXPLAINED

Arawn: the Celtic God of Death and the Underworld, explained

Celtic Tree of Life (Crann Bethadh): meaning and history

The Celtic symbol for strength: everything you need to know

The 5 best Celtic symbols for Irish mothers (and sons and daughters)

The Irish Celtic symbol for family: what is it and what it means

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Send this to a friend