Irish genealogy Toolkit logo

Irish symbols

The symbols of Ireland are famous the world over as emblems of Irish heritage.

Irish symbols

The best-known Irish symbols are a kind of visual shorthand for Ireland and Irish heritage. Inevitably, they have been borrowed (did someone say hi-jacked?) by the marketeers and brand managers for the purpose of creating pots of gold, but that doesn't mean every ounce of Irishness has been squeezed out of them in the process.

Leprechaun's hat and pot of gold.

Far from it. Irish people generally remain rather fond of their shamrocks and leprechauns et al, and proud that they have spread across the world as symbols of Ireland's culture and history.

Behind each of these emblems is a rich tradition. Each one fits into Ireland's colourful tapestry in some way, typically through the blending of myth, reality and great stores of imagination!

Find out more about these well-known Irish symbols:

  • The flag of Ireland – perhaps the single most important emblem of the Republic.
  • The shamrock – probably the most recognised of the symbols of Ireland and perhaps the most loved. The little three leafed plant has connections to St Patrick and Catholicism, and is a reminder of the country's green carpet.
  • Hot and dark with a creamy white head. It can only be Irish coffee.
  • The Irish Celtic Cross. A mixture of pagan worship and Christianity comes together in this design.
  • Celtic High Crosses are the giants of the Irish countryside, and impressive remnants of antiquity.
  • The traditional Irish ring – the claddagh ring – symbolises friendship, love and loyalty.
  • The Irish harp – On Irish passports, coins and flags (not to mention the logo of a certain famous brand of stout), the wire-stringed harp is the oldest official emblem of Ireland.
  • The sometimes good, sometimes evil leprechaun – the little fella has associations with the 'other side' and his unpredicatability makes him worthy of respect.

St Patrick's Day

Throughout the world, more Irish symbols are on display on 17 March than any other date in the calendar.

Discover the history of St Patrick.

Irish symbols are a transportable way of displaying or alluding to Irish heritage. And these days there's plenty of choice in how you choose to present it. From the ubiquitous key-ring containing an evergreen shamrock to a full-blown Celtic Cross tattoo, it seems these emblems of Ireland can adorn just about any place, or any thing, you choose.

Where next?

  • The Jack O'Lantern could be another symbol of Ireland. Find out about the origin of Halloween.
  • Take a look at how Irish crafts also reflect Ireland's great heritage.

←   top of page

Celtic giants

You only have to look at a tourist brochure or guide book to see how the Celtic or Irish cross is used as a simple devide to portray Ireland as an island of history, mystery and culture. So, too, are the Celtic trinity symbols that so often adorn them.

The terms High Cross, Celtic Cross and Irish Cross tend to be used interchangeably but there is some distinction. The High Cross refers to the ancient giants found across Ireland and lands settled by the Celts.

The Irish Cross, however, refers to the more modern representation of the High Cross. It is ubiquitious across the island, in graveyards, logos, tattoos...

The term Celtic Cross is vague. It can mean either.

Moone High Cross, co Kildare, Ireland

Standing some 17.5 ft tall (5.4m), the Moone Cross is thought to date from the 8th century and is one of the best preserved High Crosses in Ireland.

Lush green and creamy yellow

A cow is a cow is a cow? Not when it produces really excellent golden butter.

Irish butter is naturally coloured, due to the beta-carotene in the lush green Irish grass consumed by the cows.

It has a higher fat content than most butters lending it a glorious richness, and making it an increasingly well-known symbol of Ireland's beautiful countryside.

An Irish cow

| Home Page | Disclaimer | Contact |Sitemap|Privacy Policy|

By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2015 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
Return to top