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Gravestones are defined as a place marker of where someone is buried. More than just a memorial monument, gravestones are also a great way to remember, honor, and pay respect to those who have passed away.

Gravestones usually have multiple engravings on them, such as the name of the person laid to rest, the date of their birth and death, and in some cases, a short message from the family. And if you walk around a gravesite, you’ll often see inscriptions and symbols on headstones too.

This tradition has been practiced for centuries. Some symbols such as those depicting faith and religions on grave designs are usually easy to decipher. There are also symbols of hearts, roses, flags, memberships to fraternities and organizations that you can easily tell the meanings.

Here’s a look at some of the popular symbols you’re likely to encounter when looking at gravestone designs and their meaning.

1 .Plants And Flowers

Flowers are among the popular symbols used in both traditional and modern gravestone designs. While the practice today is more for aesthetics and decoration purposes, the traditional practice for inscribing flowers on headstones and graves has a deeper meaning. Moreso, different plants and flowers carry different meanings.

The ivy is a symbol of friendship and an eternal embrace. You’ll mostly see it curved on different headstone shapes as though clinging on or growing around them. If you see lilies, they’re a symbol of innocence and purity for the one laid to rest. As for palm branches, they symbolize victory, peace, and immortality.

2. A Handshake Or Clasped Hands

Handshakes have various meanings in different cultures. In most cultures, it’s used as a symbol of peace because it shows that the person coming does not intend to bring any harm as they’re bare-handed. This symbol is also used to represent friendship, loyalty, and agreement.

When you encounter a symbol of clasped hands on headtsone designs, it symbolizes an eternal bond between the deceased and those left behind or the final farewell. In some instances, this symbol portrays a bond between two very close people, such as siblings, parents, or spouses.

3. Crosses

Crosses are among the popular religious symbols on gravestones that depict Christianity and faith. It also symbolizes resurrection and eternal life. But this symbol comes in many variations. Aside from the Christian cross, there’s also the Celtic cross

The Celtic Cross has equal arms fitted in a circle. It has been said that the history behind this symbol was merging the pagan and Christian symbols into one. The circle is the pagan symbol representing worshipping the sun, and the cross portrays the Christian faith.

However, a Celtic cross can have both religious and secular meanings. For instance, for some, a Celtic cross means the deceased is of British Isles or Irish origin.

4. An Anchor

This is another symbol commonly found in gravestone designs. Whenever you encounter an anchor, it might be that the deceased was a lover of the sea and water or was in the navy. On the other hand, it can also be used for spiritual symbolism to show strength and hope.

When the anchor on tombstone designs is combined with a broken chain, it may signify a life that was cut short, probably at sea.

5. Angelic Figures

Most of the time, when you see symbols either as images of angels or figurines on graves, that’s a symbol of innocence. This symbol is mainly used on children’s graves.

In the traditional sense, angels are seen as God’s agents. Moreover, it’s a representation of compassion and the afterlife where loved ones will encounter angels.

In some cases, when you see this on a tombstone design, it can also be a symbol of consolation giving a message to the bereaved that their loved one is in a better place.

6. Stars

A star on a grave is mostly a symbol of either of these two things; eternity or divine guidance. When it’s a hexagon—a star with six sides, it’s a symbol of creation. You’ll be most likely to find the hexagon in Eastern religions in areas that practice Hinduism.

The star also symbolizes dreams, hope, and eternal life. You can see stars curved on inscribed on simple grave designs and huge memorial monuments.

7. The Draped Urn

It wasn’t always common to practice burial in many cultures and traditions. Instead, cremating the bodies of loved ones and preserving their ashes was the common way of resting the deceased. After cremating the bodies, the bereaved would put these ashes in urns, similar to how it happens today.

However, as burials or laying loved ones to rest became more popular, people started making unique headstone designs that featured an urn to keep traditions alive. The drape on the urn is a symbol of protection to the soul as it transits to the afterlife.


Gravestones are a great way to keep honoring and remembering our loved ones. They carry various symbols and inscriptions that mean different things. That said, when choosing a gravestone design, take the time to research symbols and their meanings that can capture and embody the lives of the deceased.

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