Symbols Of Friendship Around The World

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Friendships can be some of the most important bonds we experience in life. A close friend can lift our spirits, provide us with comfort, and give us advice. When we need support, friends are often the first people we call. Below, we’re going to discuss the significance of friendship and how these important relationships are celebrated through different symbols in cultures around the world.

The importance of friendship

Bonds with close friends can be extremely intimate and impactful on our lives. Some friends can be closer to us than our own relatives, sometimes referred to as “chosen family.” A good friend may understand us better than a family member, partner, or anyone else can. Strong friendships can even form the basis for lasting romantic relationships in some cases, or may take the place of one. 

There are many different forms that friendships can take. Some may be short-term or situational, while others may last a lifetime. The bottom line is that friendships can be nourishing, fulfilling, inspiring, and enjoyable—even life-changing or life-saving. In fact, research shows that having strong, reliable sources of social support like friendships can contribute to lower risks of a variety of physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer's disease.

Because of their many positive impacts and benefits, it’s no wonder that so many different cultures have special symbols to honor the bonds of friendship.
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Common friendship symbols

Whether you’re looking for ways to show love to a friend or are simply curious about how other cultures honor friendships, you may find the list of friendship symbols below to be interesting.

Wearable symbols

A wearable symbol of friendship can be an everyday reminder of the special bond you feel with a close companion. 

Claddagh rings

The Claddagh ring is a common symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship, particularly in Ireland. This symbol depicts two hands holding up a heart with a crown atop it, representing concepts like cooperation, affection, and love. While some use it to represent romantic love and commitment, it may also be used as a wearable token of friendship.

Friendship bracelets

Thought to be adapted from macramé crafts made by indigenous peoples in Central America, the friendship bracelet is one of the most recognizable symbols of companionship. They are significant in part because they are often made by hand by the friends involved. 

Split hearts

Jewelry made with one heart split into two pieces can represent a friendship separated by distance. When friends are apart, they each have a piece of the heart. When they reunite, the pieces can be fitted together. Split hearts can be found on necklaces, bracelets, keychains, or other types of wearable items.

Tattoos

Friends who choose to get tattoos together are agreeing to commit to or honor their friendship over the long term. People in different situations and cultures may get different types of tattoos to celebrate friendship. For example, the pikorua is a common tattoo of the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. It’s a double-twisted symbol that represents an eternal connection and an ongoing journey between friends. 

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Natural symbols

Caring for a plant can be similar to nurturing a friendship, since you need to provide it with attention and care in order to see it thrive. Perhaps this parallel is why there are several types of plants and flowers that are commonly used to represent friendship around the world.

Jade plants 

Native to South Africa and Mozambique, the jade plant is a succulent that’s now known around the world as a symbol of good luck and friendship. It’s often given as a gift to wish a friend luck in their new endeavors or in a new year. A flowering jade plant is an especially potent symbol of friendship, because it won’t bloom unless it’s properly cared for.

Yellow roses

Unlike red, pink, or white roses, which often represent romance, yellow roses are all about friendship. With the cheerful color of sunlight, yellow roses express warmth and straightforward, uncomplicated love. Yellow roses are commonly associated with the stable bonds of friendship in different cultures.

Chrysanthemums

The small, white chrysanthemum flower has long been associated with optimism, joy, and wishes for health and happiness. When given to true friends, it’s a symbol of positivity and cheer—especially in places like China and Japan where this flower has a particularly strong cultural meaning. They’re hardy, like a lasting platonic bond can be, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes just like friendships do.

Gemstones as symbols

Since friendships can be the most enduring relationships in many people’s lives, it’s not surprising that gemstones are common symbols associated with them.

Lapis lazuli

Thought to have been mined in the mountains of modern-day Afghanistan for over 6,000 years, lapis lazuli is a stone that has long been a symbol of both friendship and truth. It’s appropriate that this gem symbolizes honesty, since that quality is often a cornerstone of a strong, long-lasting friendship. 

Topaz

Topaz symbolizes fidelity. This stone can take on different shades and colors, but yellow topaz in particular is associated with friendship.

Other types of symbols

Still other symbols of friendship are written or illustrated representations. These can be versatile ways of expressing a strong commitment to or love for a friend.

The infinity symbol

The infinity symbol is a mathematical notation that has become an emblem of commitment and continuity in friendships. These interlocking curves with no beginning or end are a rich visual symbol of our hopes for a friendship. Another way to look at it is that the experience of friendship can give rise to feelings that are so strong that they may feel inexpressible, hinting at something beyond our reach. For some, the symbol for infinity embodies that deep, even spiritual connection that can be experienced in a friendship.

Letters of logographic languages

Some of the most popular symbols of friendship come from logographic languages, in which individual characters stand for an entire word or idea (as opposed to alphabetic writing symbols like English, where letters stand for a single sound). Chinese characters for friendship, for example, are sometimes used as symbols of the bond between friends.

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Seeking help with cultivating strong friendships

There are a variety of factors that can hold a person back from forming the strong friendships they desire and deserve. Someone with social anxiety, for example, may feel so uncomfortable or even panicked when faced with opportunities for social interaction that they may not be able to form these types of bonds until they can receive support and treatment for this mental health condition. A person experiencing depression may find it difficult to socialize in general, which can include both making new friends and maintaining existing friendships. Still others may experience issues with self-confidence, trouble knowing themselves and what they’re looking for, or emotional blocks from hurtful friendships in the past—all of which can make it harder to find or form these close bonds.

A mental health professional may be able to help with all of the above. They can help you learn to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression so that you can still engage in social activities and connect with others in a meaningful way. They can help you build confidence and communication skills, identify what qualities you want in a healthy friendship, and heal from any past hurt that may be getting in your way. Regardless of the root cause, a therapist can support you in working through these challenges.

There are various types and formats of therapy available for those who want to seek this kind of assistance. Studies show that online therapy in particular can be an effective form of care for those who are experiencing loneliness and related mental health concerns. In one study, researchers found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped decrease feelings of loneliness in participants while increasing their overall quality of life and mitigating social anxiety symptoms. 

You deserve the support and comfort that a strong friendship can provide. If you’d like help building healthy relationships, consider using an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. It allows you to participate in therapy from the comfort of your own home via phone, video, and/or in-app messaging. See below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from those who have sought their help for similar concerns.

Counselor reviews

“I started working with Randy about a month ago. Since losing one of my best friends to suicide in college, I've gone through a couple of therapists. There's always been one reason or another that we didn't match up well. However, BetterHelp did a great job matching me up to Randy. Randy is the best therapist I've had because he's a very good listener. Randy made me feel comfortable talking about whatever was on my mind. He broke up the awkward bits with humor and made me feel in control of my own destiny. I highly recommend Randy to everyone and am very happy that BetterHelp matched us. Thank you!”

“Marjorie has brought me so much peace of mind. Even with my family and friends around me I sometimes felt alone in my problems because it seemed like people didn't quite understand, but Marjorie does. I feel much more balanced since I was paired with her through BetterHelp.”

Takeaway

Friendships are typically an important component of a person’s support system. Having people you can trust and depend on can enrich your life and even improve your mental health. If you’d like to further develop your social support network, consider reaching out to a qualified mental health professional. They can help you grow as a person and learn to nurture healthy, loving relationships of all different kinds.
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