Friendship is one of the most important relationships in our lives. Having close bonds and connections with others provides meaning, happiness, and support. Throughout history, cultures around the world have used various objects and symbols to represent the enduring connection of friendship. These symbols evoke the values of trust, support, appreciation, and solidarity that are at the heart of all good friendships.
Common Symbolic Representations of Friendship
There are many common symbols that are used to represent friendship across cultures and time periods. Here are some of the most recognizable and meaningful friendship symbols.
The Friendship Bracelet
One of the most iconic symbols of friendship is the friendship bracelet. This bracelet is often handmade out of embroidery floss or thread and gifted by one friend to another. The bracelet can be tied or braided into a variety of patterns and designs. The act of making and exchanging these bracelets represents the care, effort, and closeness of the friendship. Friendship bracelets first became popular in the 1970s and are now globally recognized as a quintessential symbol of friendship.
The Yellow Rose
In many parts of the world, the yellow rose stands for friendship. Typically given as a gift, the yellow rose conveys warmth, affection, appreciation, and platonic love between friends. This meaning comes from the rose’s bright, sunny color, which evokes joy and happiness. The long-lasting nature of the rose also symbolizes the enduring quality of true friendships.
Two Swans or Geese
Using pairs of animals to represent friendship dates back to ancient Egypt, where two geese were frequently depicted this way. In modern times, pairs of swans are also used to indicate friendship. The lifelong bonding, loyalty, and faithfulness that swans exhibit towards each other serves as a model for ideal human friendship. Images of two swans together symbolize mutual trust, respect, and devotion.
Dolphins are known to form strong social bonds and live in tightly knit groups. Their playful nature and apparent joy when interacting make dolphins a fitting symbol of friendship. Dolphin images are often used to represent friendship themes like camaraderie, teamwork, and solidarity. Simple dolphin sketches or caricatures are commonly used in friendship-themed greeting cards, artwork, and illustrations.
Two Shake Hands
The simple gesture of two hands shaking represents friendship, cooperation, and trust across many cultures. From business partnerships to personal relationships, the hand shake has long been the ultimate gesture of goodwill, agreement, and friendship. Statues or artwork emphasizing clasped hands symbolize the unity, respect, and collaboration embodied in true friendship.
Unique Friendship Symbols From Around the World
While some friendship symbols are nearly universal, many cultures have unique objects that hold friendship meaning. Here are some of the most interesting and meaningful friendship symbols from around the world.
|China||Peaches||Peaches represent longevity and immortality in Chinese culture. Giving peaches conveys wishes for an enduring friendship.|
|India||Namaste Hand Gesture||Bringing hands together in Namaste represents friendship and respect.|
|Polynesia||Shark’s Teeth Jewelry||Exchanging necklaces made of shark’s teeth demonstrates the depth of friendship.|
|Native American||Turtle||Turtles represent wisdom, longevity, and loyalty between friends.|
|Celtic||Claddagh||The Claddagh symbol of hands, heart, and crown conveys friendship, love, and loyalty.|
|Nigeria||Handshake + Snapping Fingers||The special handshake and finger snapping represents trust and rapport.|
|Korea||Half Moon||Two half moon pendants forming a full moon represents complementarity in friendship.|
Meaningful Symbols of Friendship in Religion and Myth
Friendship has significance across the realms of religion, myth, and literature as well. Certain stories and symbols about friendship from faith traditions, myths, and fiction have become icons with larger meaning. Here are some noteworthy friendship symbols from religion and myth.
The Bible – David and Jonathan
The deep, intimate friendship between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament books of Samuel is one of the most meaningful in the Bible. Their loyalty and sacrifice for each other is a Biblical representation of true, platonic friendship. In Western culture, “David and Jonathan Friendship” has come to mean a close, devoted bond.
Celtic Myth – Brighid’s Cloak
In Celtic mythology, Brighid’s cloak represents friendship and unity. Legend says it protected friends and gave them joy and comfort. Parts of the cloak were said to be passed down between generations of friends. Celtic knots and cloaks continue to symbolize the strength of friendship today.
Hinduism – Krishna and Sudama
The Hindu story of boyhood friends Krishna and Sudama teaches about selfless friendship. Their devotion and service to each other, despite vastly different lives, is an ideal example of spiritual friendship. Miniature paintings of Krishna and Sudama frequently appear in Hindu artwork and jewelry.
Literature – The Three Musketeers
“All for one and one for all!” This famous line from Dumas’ classic novel *The Three Musketeers* encapsulates an attitude of solidarity and interdependence between friends. In pop culture, the image of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis with swords raised continues to evoke loyalty and camaraderie.
Friendship Symbols in Practice
These many friendship symbols appear on a wide array of items, artwork, jewelry, stationery, clothing, and more. People commonly incorporate them into gifts, event decorations, keepsakes, greeting cards, photos, and anything else that commemorates friendship. Here are some of the most popular ways friendship symbols get incorporated:
Jewelry is a particularly common way of displaying friendship symbols. Matching friendship bracelets, pendants or charms in meaningful shapes, and split items like half-heart necklaces are some jewelry ideas. Pieces that can be shared, exchanged, or worn together emphasize the bonding aspect.
Written correspondence is meaningful between friends, so paper stationery lends itself well to friendship symbols. Notes passed between schoolgirl friends might have doodled hearts, smiley faces, or animal mascots on them. Stationery companies design patterned borders using vines, blossoms, bows, and other symbols to evoke friendship.
Greeting card companies know that consumers look for cards conveying the right friendship sentiment. Cards featuring symbolic images like intertwined flowers, colorful hands, rainbows, sunbursts, and doves help express the joy and power of friendship. Appreciation and support are also communicated through symbols like hearts and embracing arms.
When hosting celebrations for friend groups or BFFs, incorporating symbolic decorations is a fun way to reinforce the theme. Centerpieces featuring pairs of swans, bunches of yellow roses, or stacked hands make meaningful display pieces. Cookies or cake pops decorated with hearts, smiley faces, dolphins, and friendship bracelets carry the symbolism to the refreshments.
Scrapbooking friends’ letters, photos, ticket stubs, and other mementos is a way to honor the history of a friendship. Borders decorated with meaningful symbols like floral garlands, butterflies, gemstones, and interlocking rings add a layer of significance. The symbolic embellishments personalize layouts to capture the friendship’s unique meaning.
Friendship symbols have significance across cultures and contexts because of how they encapsulate abstract feelings and values like trust, appreciation, comfort, longevity, and unity. Whether the traditional symbols of bracelets, roses, swans, and handshakes, or lesser-known emblems like sharks’ teeth and Brighid’s cloak, these symbols reflect how essential friendship is to the human experience. Their continued use in jewelry, decorations, stationery, myth, literature, scrapbooks, and more demonstrates the universal need to honor friendship and have physical representations of its profound meaning.