Peace symbols

Peace symbols

A peace symbol is a representation or object that has come to symbolize peace. Several different symbols have been used throughout history, of which the dove, olive branch, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament symbol (the peace symbol) are perhaps the best known.

Dove and olive branch

In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam a white dove is generally a sign for peace. The Torah, The Old Testament and The Koran describe a story in which a dove was released by Noah after the Great Flood in order to find land. The dove came back carrying an olive branch in its beak, telling Noah that the Great Flood had receded and there was land once again for Man. (Genesis 8:11).

The motif can also represent "hope for peace" and even a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch". Often, the dove is represented as still in flight to remind the viewer of its role as messenger.

Broken Rifle

in their "Gunstar" logo.

Shalom and Salaam

The Hebrew word "Shalom" (Hebrew: hebrew|שָׁלוֹם), and the Arabic "Salaam" (Arabic: rtl- _ar. سلام) have been used as peace symbols. Shalom and Salaam literally mean "peace" and are cognates of each other, derived from the Semitic Triconsonantal of "Ś-L-M" (realized in Hebrew as Š-L-M and in Arabic as S-L-M). They have come to represent "Mideast peace" and an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Wall plaques and signs are sold with both the words and are featured in such such as "Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu)."

Peace flag

In recent years, especially in connection with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, there has been a surge in popularity of the Peace flag, a series of seven rainbow colors (red on bottom) with the word PACE ("Peace" in Italian and Romanian, derived from the Latin word "pax", pronounced "pah-chay") boldly printed across the middle. The more recent usage originated in Italy. In most of the world, however, the rainbow flag (red on top) is most often connected with gay pride. The usage of the rainbow can either be tracked back to pacific coexistence of different people, or to the rainbow that God showed Noah at the end of the Biblical flood, as a token of the covenant that He made between Himself and mankind, that He would not again destroy the entire world with a flood (Genesis 9) [;&version=9;] . The flag in its current shape appeared as early as September 24 1961, in an Italian peace march. It had previously featured a dove drawn by Pablo Picasso. [] The flag is often flown from balconies in Italy by citizens opposed to the Iraq war. Its use has spread to other countries as well, with the Italian "pace" replaced with its translation in various other languages.

According to Amnesty International, producer Franco Belsito had produced only about 1,000 flags annually for 18 years, and suddenly had to cope with a demand in the range of millions. [cite web|url= |title=Det nytter! |accessdate=2008-03-22 |date=2003-06-06 |publisher=Amnesty International |language=Norwegian ]


The "V-sign", also called the "peace sign" and the "victory sign," is a hand gesture with the index and middle fingers open and all others closed, facing the viewer. Originally strictly a sign for victory, it developed into a peace sign during protests against the Vietnam War (and subsequent anti-war protests) and by the counterculture as a sign of peace. Because the hippies of the day often flashed this sign (palm out) while vocalizing "Peace", it became popularly known through association as the peace sign. Originally, however, its symbolic meaning was "love"; signing "love" and saying "peace" was a hippie anthem and mutual greeting.

John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono later made "Peace and love" an ongoing theme in their relationship and public personae, even conducting a public "bed-in" (a parallel construction to a favorite hippie theme event during the 60s and early 70s, the "love-in") in Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Canada, where they refused to leave their hotel bed.

The peace symbol

This symbol (☮) was originally used for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and was adopted as its badge by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Britain, and originally was used by the British nuclear disarmament movement. It was subsequently adopted as an international emblem for the 1960s anti-war movement, and was also adopted by the counterculture of the time. It was designed and completed February 21 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist in Britain for the April 4 march planned by DAC from Trafalgar Square, London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Englandcite web
title = A Piece of Our Time
publisher = Time Magazine
url =,9171,1725969,00.html
accessdate = 2008-04-02
] . The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the peace symbol. In the first official CND version ("preceded by a ceramic pin version that had straight lines, but was short lived") the spokes curved out to be wider at the edge of the circle which was white on black. [The CND symbol. Hugh Brock Papers.] cite web
title = The CND logo
publisher = Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
url =
accessdate = 2008-04-03

Holtom later wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, explaining the genesis of his idea in greater depth: "I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it."

The peace symbol flag first became known in the United States in 1958 when Albert Bigelow, a pacifist protester, sailed his small boat outfitted with the CND banner into the vicinity of a nuclear test. The peace symbol button was imported into the United States in 1960 by Philip Altbach, a freshman at the University of Chicago, who traveled to England to meet with British peace groups as a delegate from the Student Peace Union (SPU). Altbach purchased a bag of the "chickentrack" buttons while he was in England, and brought them back to Chicago, where he convinced SPU to reprint the button and adopt it as its symbol. Over the next four years, SPU reproduced and sold thousands of the buttons on college campuses. By the late 1960s, the peace symbol had become an international symbol adopted by anti-war protestors of the Baby Boomer generation. cite book|title= Peace: The Biography of a Symbol | author= Ken Kolsbun with Mike Sweeney| publisher= National Geographic Books | sate=2008-04-01 |ISBN =9781426202940 |url= | accessdate=2008-08-28]

In Unicode, the peace symbol is U+262E: , and can thus be generated in HTML by typing ☮ or ☮. However, many browsers will not have a font that can display it.

Symbol Archive

The original drawing of the CND is housed in the Peace Museum, U.K. [ [ The Peace Museum, Bradford ] ] in Bradford, England, where a replica is on public display.


The fact that the symbol resembles a bird foot in a circle gave rise to spurious alternative interpretations, ranging from plain mockery of "crow's foot" or "The footprint of the American Chicken" (suggesting that peace activists were cowards) to a number of occult meanings, such as an upside down crucifix with the arms broken downward, suggesting the way that St. Peter was martyred (see Cross of St. Peter), or a representation Jesus on the cross upside-down. This broken cross of Christianity was commonly conjectured as an antichrist symbol in the 1960s. Others have claimed that the symbol resembles a medieval sign known as "Nero's Cross" that represents Christian heresy. [cite web | url= | title= The origin of the Peace Symbol | work=Docs Populi | accessdate=2008-03-21 ] [ [ Christian Resource Centre: Peace Sign] ] [cite web | title=Subdivision bans peace sign Christmas wreath | date=2006-11-27 | publisher=Associated Press | url = | work =MSNBC | pages = | accessdate = 2008-03-22 | quote = Homeowners association threatens to impose $25-a-day fine ] [cite news | first=Kirk | last=Johnson | coauthors= | title=Pro-Peace Symbol Forces Win Battle in Colorado Town | date=2006-11-29 | url = | work =New York Times | pages = | accessdate = 2008-03-22 | language = ] Alternatively, some have suggested that the symbol is an inverted Elhaz rune, which would reverse the rune's meaning, according to the critics, from 'life' to 'death' (although the Elhaz rune is thought to mean "elk" [cite book| last =Plowright| first =Sweyn| authorlink =| coauthors =| title =The Rune Primer| publisher =LuLu| date =2006| location =| pages =pp.18,123| url =| doi =| id =ISBN 1847282466] ). Gerald Holtom's explanation of the genesis of the symbol and his first drawings of it, however, do not support those interpretations.Ken Kolsbum, a correspondent of Mr. Holtum, says that the designer came to regret the symbolism of despair, as he felt that peace was something to be celebrated and wanted the symbol to be inverted. [cite news | first=Kathryn | last=Westcott | coauthors= | title=World's best-known protest symbol turns 50 | date=2008-03-20 | publisher= | url = | work | pages = | accessdate = 2008-03-20 | language = ] The peace symbol was also believed by some to represent a swept-wing bomber, the type that would be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.Ironically, a nearly identical symbol was used by the Nazi German 3rd Panzer Division during World War II. [Panzer Divisional Markings. []

Richard M. Spencer, late of the World Wildlife Fund, creatived much unexpected derision when he utilized the symbol for their marketing campaign "Have you hugged a panda today?" which featured a drawing of a panda holding a peace sign. The posters were made during the height of the Vietnam conflict and turned off many would be supporters. They were redone with the panda holding his arms out instead.

White Poppy

The White Poppy was first developed in 1933 by the Women's Co-operative Guild as an alternative to the Red Poppies used to commemorate British military dead. The newly-formed Peace Pledge Union (PPU) joined in distributing them in 1934, and white poppy wreaths were laid "as a pledge to peace that war must not happen again. In 1980, the PPU revived the symbol as a form of remembering the victims of war without glorifying militarism. In 1986 UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed her "deep distaste" for the symbol. [Bill Hetherington, "Symbols of Peace", Housmans Peace Diary 2007]

Other peace symbols

The Origami crane is a well-known symbol for peace.

Some unique items have come to symbolize peace. For example, the Japanese Peace Bell was a gift from the UN Association of Japan to the United Nations, presented to them in 1954. The bell remains at UN headquarters and is struck yearly, in remembrance for peace.

The Pax Cultura symbol, created by Nicholas Roerich has also been used as a peace symbol.

"Guernica", a painting by Pablo Picasso, has also been associated with pacifism. Although it was not conceived by the author as a representation of war's horrors, its depiction of the Nazi Bombing of Guernica is now considered an iconic anti-war statement.

ee also

*Peace pipe
*Palm frond
*V sign


External links

* [ The biography of the Peace Symbol by Ken Kolsbun] -
* [ A tribute to the Peace Symbol and the Peace Sign] -
* [ Peace symbols Part I] - peace signs and images (author: Arash Vahdati)
* [ Peace symbols Part II] - peace signs and images (author: Karan Reshad)
* [ What is the origin of the peace symbol?] (from The Straight Dope)
* [ International Human Peace Sign]
* [ Live peace symbols] - in 30 country, 60 location
* [ Happy Birthday Peace] - celebrating 50 years of Gerald Holtom's peace symbol
* [ World's best-known protest symbol turns 50] - BBC News

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