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What rose symbols?

What rose symbols?

Roses have long held symbolic meaning in legends, myths, and stories throughout history. The rose has been a popular symbol associated with love, beauty, war, politics, and more. The color, number, and style of roses can have very different meanings. Understanding the varied symbolic history and meaning behind roses can give insight into how they are viewed and used symbolically.

Meanings in Ancient Times

Some of the earliest symbolic meanings of roses date back to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. The rose was associated with the goddess of love, Aphrodite. It was also said that during the feast of the gods, Aphrodite gave a rose to the god of silence and secrecy, Harpocrates, to bribe him not to betray the revelry of the gods. This myth associated roses with confidentiality.

Ancient Culture Rose Symbolism
Ancient Greece Love, Beauty
Ancient Rome Confidentiality

Roses also had significance in ancient Rome. Roses were cultivated extensively and were commonly used to decorate everything from statues to tombs. Roses were associated with the Roman feast of Rosalia, commemorating the dead.

Christian Interpretations

Early Christians adopted the rose as a symbol of paradise and the Virgin Mary. The five petals were said to represent the five wounds of Christ. Saints and martyrs were shown with roses as a sign of heavenly joy. The rose also took on meaning regarding the silence and secrecy of confession in the church. Roses with thorns reminded Christians of sin and the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.

Christian Symbolism Meaning
Five petals Five wounds of Christ
Depictions of saints/martyrs Heavenly joy
Thorns Sin, Fall of Man

During the Middle Ages, the Virgin Mary was called the “Mystic Rose” and roses became associated with her. Roses were cultivated in monastery gardens dedicated to her.

Meanings in Folklore and Legends

Roses appear frequently in myths, legends, and folklore around the world. Greek legends tell of white roses springing forth from the blood of Adonis. Norse myths associate the beginning of the universe with a mystical rose. A Cherokee legend tells of souls being scattered among roses. Eastern folklore describes a nightingale falling in love with a white rose it mistakenly thinks is the moon.

Story Rose Symbolism
Adonis legend (Greek) Rebirth, beauty
Norse creation myth Universe origins
Cherokee legend Souls of the deceased
Eastern nightingale legend Love, misperception

Roses were also symbolic in fairy tales and medieval romances. Sleeping Beauty was protected by a hedge of thorns before being awakened by love’s first kiss. Beauty and the Beast featured an enchanted rose that would bloom until his 21st birthday, when the spell must be broken.

Meaning in Politics and War

The rose has long held symbolic meaning in the political sphere as well. After the War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster, the Tudor rose became a symbol that united both houses. Henry VII adopted it as a national emblem of England. During the French Revolution, the Jacobins used the red rose as their symbol. Socialists and social democratic political parties worldwide often use the rose symbol today.

Use of Rose Meaning
Tudor rose (England) Unity
Jacobins’ red rose (French Revolution) Social reform
Socialist/social democratic parties Social justice

During World War II, the phrase “rose garden strategy” referred to President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy of appeasing Stalin. The name derived from the White House rose garden where Roosevelt entertained Stalin. Roses were used ironically to refer to compromise with an aggressive power.

Meaning of Rose Colors

The color of roses also holds symbolic meaning. Red roses convey deep emotion, like love, longing, or desire. Pink roses signify gentleness and grace. Deep burgundy roses imply unconscious beauty. Lavender or purple roses connote enchantment and love at first sight.

Rose Color Meaning
Red Love, passion
Pink Grace, happiness
Burgundy Unconscious beauty
Lavender/Purple Enchantment, first love

White roses evoke purity and secrecy. Yellow roses represent joy and friendship. Orange roses signify enthusiasm and desire. A bouquet of roses with assorted colors conveys mixed emotions.

Rose Color Meaning
White Purity, secrecy
Yellow Joy, friendship
Orange Enthusiasm, desire
Mixed colors Mixed emotions

Meaning of Numbers of Roses

The number of roses also has symbolic significance. A single rose conveys simplicity. Two roses entwined together communicate deep love. Six roses say “I want to be yours.” A dozen roses express “be mine” or “I love you.” Twenty-four roses signify pure romance. Fifty roses say “unconditional love.”

Number of Roses Meaning
1 Simplicity
2 Deep love
6 Desire to be yours
12 Perfect, “be mine,” “I love you”
24 Pure romance
50 Unconditional love

Meaning of Rose Styles

Different rose styles also carry symbolic meaning. Thornless roses indicate love at first sight. Single bloom roses convey simplicity. Rosebuds symbolize youth and beauty. Full blooming roses represent appreciation. Roses with thorns depict defense and loss.

Rose Style Meaning
Thornless Love at first sight
Single bloom Simplicity
Rosebuds Youth, beauty
Full bloom Appreciation
With thorns Defense, loss


Roses have accumulated a vast array of symbolic meanings over centuries of legends, myths, stories, and cultural use. The color, number, and style of roses each convey different emotions, ideas, and symbols. Red roses speak of romance, white roses represent purity, and thorny roses indicate loss. Twenty-four roses demonstrate pure romance. These are just a few examples of the varied rose symbols throughout history. Next time you come across roses, consider the rich symbolism and meanings associated with this beloved flower.