Skip to Content

What are the signs of a Mason?

What are the signs of a Mason?

Freemasonry, known colloquially as simply Masonry, is a centuries-old fraternal organization that promotes moral and spiritual growth amongst its members. Masons use symbols and symbolic gestures to convey the principles that guide their organization and to identify themselves to fellow members. Many of these signs come from traditions and rituals that date back hundreds of years. Though Masonic traditions are meant to be kept private amongst members, there are some telltale signs that someone may be a Freemason.

Common Masonic Symbols

Some of the most well-known Masonic symbols include the square and compasses, the letter “G”, and the all-seeing eye. The square and compasses are the most identifiable and ubiquitous Masonic symbols, representing reason and faith. The letter “G” stands for geometry as well as God, the “Great Architect” or creative force of the universe. The all-seeing eye represents the watchful gaze of this divine presence. Images depicting these symbols, especially on rings, bumper stickers, clothing, or car decals, may indicate Masonic membership.

Handshakes and Gestures

Masons use special handshakes, hand gestures, and secret words to identify themselves to fellow members. Some examples include the following:

  • Lion’s paw or lion’s grip: Grasping a brother Mason’s hand with fingers spread in imitation of a lion’s paw
  • Strong grip or master’s grip: A sequence of hand grasps involving pressing fingers on knuckles in different arrangements
  • Sign of an entered apprentice: Drawing the thumb quickly across the waist
  • Pass grip: Sliding the hand from wrist to knuckle in a certain manner during a handshake
  • Due guard: A salute involving raising the open right hand in a specific way while placing the left hand in a particular position

Of course, anyone could pretend to know these handshakes and gestures without actually being a Mason. But frequent usage in greetings and other context clues may reveal true membership.

Attire and Accessories

There are certain modes of dress and fashion accessories that point to Masonic affiliation. Some examples include:

  • Wearing a Masonic ring, often depicting the square and compasses, on the right pinky or middle finger
  • Sporting a lapel pin with Masonic symbols
  • Donning Masonic cufflinks or tie clips, sometimes given when receiving degrees
  • Carrying a Freemason pocket watch, often engraved with Masonic emblems
  • Having a Masonic tattoo, like the square and compasses or other symbols

Of course, non-Masons may also wear these items. But in combination with other signs, Masonic accessories may indicate membership.

Speech and Terminology

Masons use certain phrases, terminology, and ways of referring to theological concepts that indicate Masonic membership to those familiar with them. Examples include:

  • Referring to God as the “Great Architect of the Universe” or “Grand Geometrician”
  • Talking about seeking more “light”
  • Using phrases like “so mote it be”
  • Referring to biblical figures like Hiram Abiff or Nimrod in symbolic contexts
  • Using Mason-specific words like Tyler, Inner Guard, Deacon, Worshipful Master
  • Mentioning Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, York Rite, or other Masonic bodies

Use of these kinds of phrases and terminology may subtly signify Masonic membership to those in the know.

Meeting Groups and Social Circles

Masons congregate in lodges for their meetings and rituals. Oftentimes, Masonic membership can be surmised based on the groups and social circles someone associates with. Signs may include:

  • Spending time at or frequently being seen at Masonic lodges and temples
  • Participating in Masonic fundraising and charity events
  • Attending closed gatherings at private venues with other Masons
  • Socializing in circles with many known Masonic members

Of course, not everyone in a Mason’s social circle will necessarily be a Mason themselves. But prominent affiliation with Masonic-centric groups can be a giveaway.

Secrecy and Avoidance of Questions

One of the defining traits of Freemasonry is the secrecy surrounding its rituals, traditions, and modes of recognition. Masons swear solemn oaths not to disclose protected Masonic information. As such, Masons will typically refuse to reveal anything openly if asked about their membership or the organization’s practices.

Other signs of secrecy include:

  • Quickly changing the subject when Masonry comes up
  • Refusing to discuss questions about Masonic traditions and symbolism
  • Denying membership even if other evidence exists
  • Overtly asking friends and relatives not to disclose their affiliation

While refusing to discuss Masonic matters does not definitively prove someone is a member, it can be a strong indicator when combined with other signs.

Family History and Upbringing

Masonic membership often runs in families. The organization has long been passed down through generations of fathers, uncles, brothers, and grandfathers. Some signs of a Masonic family lineage include:

  • Having male relatives known to be Masons
  • Finding Masonic items while visiting grandparents or extended family
  • Receiving Masonic jewelry or accessories as family heirlooms
  • Having Masonic affiliations mentioned as part of family history

Again, having Masonic relatives does not automatically equal personal membership. But it does make it much more likely.


Freemasonry is by nature a secretive organization. Determining Masonic membership cannot be reduced to a single telltale sign. However, certain patterns like Masonic symbolism, verbiage, evasiveness about Masonic topics, and association with known Masons can strongly indicate that someone is indeed a member of the Freemasons or affiliated appendant bodies.