10 Powerful Symbols Of Love From Around The World

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When you’re experiencing profound love for someone, you may feel as though words alone aren’t enough to convey the strength of your emotions. You might find yourself searching for the perfect image, object, or gesture to symbolize how much you care for the other person. This is nothing new — humans have been creating symbols of love since we first began to craft objects and paint pictures. 

Are you searching for the perfect image to represent your love? Wondering about the meaning behind a gift your partner gave you? This article will explore the history and significance of some well-known symbols of love, and it will also introduce you to a few you may not have heard of. Keep reading to learn about the language of romantic symbols.

Are you looking for better ways to communicate your love?

The psychology of symbols

Some of the early pioneers of psychology believed that the human mind naturally uses symbols to represent powerful ideas. Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis, thought that repressed urges and fears from the subconscious could be expressed in symbolic form within dreams, delusions, or even a person’s patterns of speech. He believed that studying the symbols emerging from a patient’s subconscious mind could reveal significant inner conflicts.

Freud’s student Carl Jung took this idea further. He theorized that certain symbols representing psychologically important concepts were deeply embedded in the human mind. Jung called these concepts archetypes, and he thought that people naturally expressed them through symbols in art and mythology as well as dreams and hallucinations. He was convinced that these symbolic patterns were part of the deep structure of the human mind, appearing across cultures and throughout history.

Contemporary psychology has moved on quite a bit from the ideas of Freud and Jung, and few researchers today think that their theories were entirely correct. However, there is some experimental evidence that people find it easier to remember certain symbolic word pairings, such as “moon” and “feminine”. This may suggest that our minds form natural associations between specific symbols and the concepts they represent.

Whatever the reasons, it seems clear that people often respond powerfully to symbols representing meaningful ideas — and love is deeply meaningful for many. Here are some symbols that have long been used to represent love and romance.

Bodily symbols of love

Since many people express love through physical actions and gestures, it’s not surprising that there are so many symbols of love based on the human body. 

#1: The heart

Though the brain is now recognized as the location of mental activity like emotions, the heart remains an enduring symbol of powerful feelings and passions. Perhaps it’s because our heart beats faster when we see someone we love or because intense happiness often makes our chest feel lighter and wider. As far back as ancient Greek mythology, the god Cupid was said to shoot arrows that pierce people's hearts with love. In many cultures throughout history, the heart has been a symbol of powerful emotions and continues to be seen in art, literature, and popular culture today. It is no wonder then that the heart remains an enduring love symbol.

There are lots of theories about where the stylized “heart shape” came from, since it looks very little like the organ it’s based on. Some believe it came from inaccurate anatomical descriptions given by the philosopher Aristotle. Others think it could have originated as an image of certain plants associated with romance, such as ivy, figs, or even an ancient plant called silphium that may have been used for birth control. The use of the heart shape as a representation of love apparently dates back to religious artwork from the Middle Ages.

#2: Clasped hands

Two hands joined together can be a powerful representation of love. It’s a clear image of two people joining together in affection. For many of us, it may make us think of the early stages of romantic relationships, in which simply holding hands with another person can feel like an enormous milestone. 

Joined hands can also symbolize love enduring past death. Victorian-era tombstones sometimes showed pairs of clasped hands to signify that the living were still holding their loved ones tight. This meaning isn’t necessarily limited to romantic love. Many people also use clasped hands to signify strong affection and care for family and friends.

#3: A kiss

The image of a mouth puckering up for a kiss can act as a stand-in when we’re not physically close enough for the real thing. Kissing is a widespread sign of affection, whether it’s a quick peck on the cheek or a long, romantic kiss on the lips. It can feel very intimate since the lips are extremely sensitive and stimulation there generally triggers a huge amount of nerve activity.

Despite this, kissing does not appear to be a universal human phenomenon. Some cultures don’t seem to do it at all. It’s possible that someone from one of those societies would be baffled by the kissy-face emojis many of us use to symbolize love!

Symbols of love from nature

Throughout different cultures, various symbols have been used to represent love, affection, and the idea of eternal life. Love symbols such as the love knot, the infinity symbol, and the maple leaf have been used to convey these deep emotions. Even plants, animals, and other features of nature can be seen as symbols that represent eternal love, perhaps this is because we are drawn to the notion that love is an inherent part of everything around us.

#4: Birds

Sometimes the joy of love can make us feel like we’re moments away from soaring into the sky, which might be why so many birds appear as symbols of love:

  • Doves. In ancient Greece, Greeks used them to symbolize Aphrodite, the goddess of love in Greek mythology.
  • Swans. Swans choose mates that can last for years, sometimes for the rest of their lives, making them a good symbol of love. When they’re courting, they sometimes touch their beaks together so that their long necks and heads form a heart shape.
  • Birds of Paradise. These birds create extravagant mating displays with their flashy feathers, so they may remind us of our own romantic passions.
  • Hummingbirds. Some Native American cultures consider the hummingbird a sign of love. The way they dart through the air and hover beside beautiful flowers can call to mind the lightness of heart that we feel when we’re in love.

#5: Flowers

The lovely petals of flowers can be an apt representation of the beauty of your beloved. Over the ages, European cultures have developed an elaborate language of flower symbols, so that bouquets of particular flowers can convey coded messages.  In Ancient Rome, brides were often depicted wearing garlands of flowers as they went to their new husband's home. This practice is still seen in some traditional weddings today. As such, the meaningful symbols of flower garlands has become an integral part of romantic gestures and expressions throughout Europe, with each type of flower having its own special meaning. For instance:

  • Red Rose. The color red often suggests passion and desire, possibly because people with some skin tones flush red they’re excited. Red roses have been used for centuries to represent romantic love.
  • Sunflower. A cheerful sunflower can represent devoted love, thanks to the way these plants turn their “faces” toward the sun as it moves through the sky.
  • Primrose. Want to say “I can’t live without you” in the language of flowers? That’s what a bright bouquet of primroses means.
  • Peony. Peonies are common wedding bouquet flowers, and they symbolize a happy and enduring marriage.
  • Camellia. This lovely and fragrant flower has different meanings depending on the color, but all are romantic. Pink means “I’m longing for you”, white means “you’re adorable”, and red means “you’re a flame in my heart.”

#6: Seashells

A seashell is a lesser-known but still widespread symbol of romance. Many goddesses of love and beauty are associated with shells, including Aphrodite (Greek), Lakshmi (Hindu), and Oshun (Yoruba). 

An open shell can provide a powerful metaphor for the transition from dating to intimate love. When we first meet a potential romantic partner, we often try to present a strong, beautiful exterior. Yet lasting love may require opening ourselves up to reveal the vulnerability and tenderness inside. Shells have also had associates with fertility and childbirth in many cultures, perhaps because they reminded people of seeds, eggs, or wombs.

#7: Apples

Yet another symbol linked with Aphrodite, apples have a long history as an image of love within western culture. In fact, the ancient Greek abbreviations for Aphrodite are often seen as a female sex symbol since they represent her in a very powerful way. Greeks in ancient times used to toss an apple to their beloved, and if the chosen person caught it, it meant that the feeling was mutual. Later on, the fruit came to symbolize the temptation of Adam and Eve, which many people associated with lustful desire. 

Other societies have also used apples to represent romance. Norse mythology includes stories of magical apples that granted everlasting beauty to those who ate them, and apple blossoms were used in ancient Chinese culture as a sign of adoration and unconditional love.

Crafted love symbols

Some love symbols derive from human-made objects. This may remind us of the idea that lasting love is something we purposefully create with our partners. 

#8: Rings

When we feel deep love, many of us want it to last forever. A ring — a shape with no beginning or end — can make a wonderful symbol for this concept of eternal love.

Using rings to signify promises of marriage dates back to the Roman empire, but the tradition of lovers exchanging rings may be much older. Scrolls from Ancient Egypt depicted people in love braiding rings for one another out of reeds.

Since then, numerous variations on this idea have evolved. The Celtic love symbol of an Irish Claddagh ring is a striking example that features a crowned heart held between two hands. One story says that a silversmith captured by pirates created the first Claddagh ring to preserve the memory of his sweetheart while he was held prisoner. When finally gained his freedom, he gave it to her as an engagement gift. 

#9: Candles

Candles are often used to set the mood for romance. The dim, flickering light adds a quality of mystery and excitement. It may also prompt our pupils to dilate, mimicking the physical signs of excitement and desire. 

A candle can serve as a symbolic image of romance as well as part of the scenery. Flames often remind us of the inner warmth generated by passionate love. And the idea of “keeping a candle burning” to light someone’s way home can be a profound metaphor for keeping love alive while one’s partner is away.

#10: Knots

We frequently think of people in love as being joined together, which can be represented by binding two ropes, cords, or threads with a knot. This may be why so many marriage rituals around the world involve the partners being tied together in some way. 

For example, some pre-Christian Celtic peoples had a ceremony called “handfasting”, in which the hands of the bride and groom were wound together.  This gesture was meant to symbolize their everlasting love and commitment, and it has endured deep meanings as a popular wedding tradition ever since. The Celtic symbol of eternity, which is two hands joined together, can be found in many Irish wedding rings and other jewelry.. 

Traditional Hindu weddings include a ritual called the “Granthi Bandhanam” which involves tying together scarves worn by the two partners. Parvati, one of the Hindu goddesses, embodies love and devotion. She is the eternal spouse of Lord Shiva, who represents inner strength and power. Parvati is often depicted with a knot in her hair, which symbolizes her lifelong devotion to her husband. This knot also represents the bond between Shiva and Parvati: an unbreakable connection that cannot be severed. It conveys the idea that love binds two souls together in a way that no other force can match.

A beautifully tied knot, or a piece of artwork with an intricate knotwork pattern, can make a profound gift for a loved one.

Are you looking for better ways to communicate your love?

Learn the language of love

Surveys suggest that a lack of communication is among the most common reasons for couples to split up. If you’re struggling to express your emotions for a partner, or looking for ways to revitalize your love, you might find it helpful to work with a relationship counselor. 

Some people find that locating a therapist can be challenging, especially when you need appointments that fit two people’s schedules. Seeking counseling online via a service like BetterHelp may make this easier. It allows you to talk with a relationship professional from your own home, removing the headache of travel time. This also gives you a wider range of counselors to choose from since they don’t need to be located in your area.

Though some may have concerns about the effectiveness of online counseling, current research suggests that it has the same effectiveness as in-person therapy. A 2020 study found that most couples who tried it were able to “become fully immersed in the therapeutic process” despite not being in the same room as their counselor. In fact, some participants said that the added distance increased their sense of comfort and made it easier for them to connect with their therapists. If you’re interested in trying it out, BetterHelp makes it easy to find licensed relationship counselors online.


A symbol that represents love or even represents eternal love can sometimes feel more powerful than words alone. Lovers throughout history have expressed themselves with gifts and works of art depicting symbols like birds, knots, and flowers, creating a poetic language of romance and self love. Learning to communicate clearly with your partner can be incredibly helpful for strengthening and deepening your love. If you’re finding this difficult, a professional relationship counselor may be able to help.
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