Go Well Beyond Typical Symbols of Love & Romance to Woo Your Partner

When we think of Valentine's Day or any occasion for love and romance,  images of cupid, a heart, an “x”, arrows or love notes head the list. Depending on the culture and location within the world, love and romance can be depicted in a single character by the Chinese, or via a colorful dragonfly in the ancient Norse culture, but for our purposes, we want you to get creative and dig deep into your inner romantic. Information is power and when it comes to matters of the heart, intellect is very sexy. Choose from a comprehensive list of symbols from all over the world that will meet and exceed any expectations for intimacy one you recount their meaning, symbolism and historical references.
The hope here is that we can offer you a number of options so that you will provide an original representative set of symbols of your affection. It’s always intriguing and more than a little bit sexy when you put some effort into what you do to represent your love. So instead of the typical symbols which we also offer here with their origins, why not include some not so traditional ones to start a conversation that ultimately leads to some well deserved passion and intimacy for Valentine's Day or any day of the year?

An “X” marks the spot for love

As messages and notes started to take hold in Western European cultures, particularly during the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, most people were unable to write or even sign their names. So when they were asked by the scribes, (people hired to write notes of affection) to sign their names to the personal notes, most did so with an “X” in place of their names. That is where the expression "X" Marks The Spot comes from.


Lips As a Symbol of Love

The evolution of lips representing love and intimacy came about when lovers or spouses sent notes to soldiers “sealed with a kiss”. The note would either contain a scent (in the latter part of the Victorian era) a handkerchief  or other small personal item like a pin for the faraway lover to cherish while he was away.The actual act of kissing was frowned upon after the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Catholic Church and their condemnation of all worldly and physical acts of affection. It was only after reformation that the use of lips as an overt show of affection (never in public) was more typically practiced.

A Handkerchief or Personal Piece of Cloth

Since before Medieval times, women had been giving pieces of personal cloth or handkerchief's to those they had affection for. In Roman times during the festival of Lupercalia, women often showed their selection for a mate by giving them a piece of cloth to wear around the boy or mans arm to show they had been taken. Over the centuries, the dropping of a handkerchief symbolized love and romantic interest in the person closest to the item and often, the suitor who picked up the piece of cloth was expected to complete the gesture. Very sexy, romantic and elegant, especially at the end of the Victorian era. Think of Othello's gift to Desdemona, tragic, but truly romantic.

XOXO as a symbol for hugs and kisses… or is it the other way around?

A with most ancient symbols, there is always debate about their origins. Some sources say the “x” represents crossed arms, or four lips and the O is a puckered set of lips or a hug surrounding you with four clasped arms. Alternatively, an “X” was an oath of honesty, just as it was used as a signature before most people could write. It also referenced kissing crossed fingers as a prayer or to the bible when travelers hoped for safe passage. “X’ was also known mathematically as a multiplier and was referenced as “love and delight” in Medieval times. In any event, the origins are cloudy, save for the “O” which was signed by Jewish immigrants who refused to sign with a cross that represented Christian immigrants.

Claddagh Symbol

This romantic symbol is composed of two hands holding a crowned heart. It comes in many variations and has been used in Scotland, Wales and other disparate clans and tribes related to the North and West of the British isles. The Claddagh symbol is used to show the bonds of love, friendship and loyalty. Some believe that the right hand of the symbol represents the father of Celtic Gods, called Dagda, while the left represents the mother goddess, Anu. The mystical, universal Celtic spirit Beathauile is believed to be the crown. Other stories of enslaved lovers are also used to recount the story of the Claddagh symbol, but none have any basis in history as opposed to being fables. The Christians then took their own version of this legend saying that the crowned heart is a symbol of God the Father and the two hands are his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Scallop Shell

This Shell's protective image is reflected by the hard, beautiful outer layer suggesting life protecting rarity and beauty (pearls) as well as the protective quality love sometimes takes. In Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love, was said to be created from the foam carried ashore atop a scallop shell. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi was said to also be created from the pearls and grit within the shell. In Hinduism, the conch shell is also symbolic because it awakens the heart of the faithful and calls to those who live with heart-filled love.

Red Rose and other specific flowers

In ancient Greek and Roman mythology the red rose was closely tied to the goddess of love. The rose was sacred to Aphrodite (Venus) and was her emblem of beauty - it was said to grow from the blood of Adonis. The Rose is also a common symbol of eternal life and resurrection. It has also been connected to the goddess Hecate, Dionysus and the three Graces. Many early cultures used red roses to decorate marriage ceremonies and they were often also a part of traditional wedding attire. The red rose became known as a symbol for love and fidelity and represented all things sensual, sacred, pure and romantic.

In Western traditions the Rose is a symbol of passion, desire, voluptuousness, and physical perfection.The modern red rose we are now familiar with was introduced to Europe from China in the 1800's. The color red itself evolved from an early primal symbol for life into a metaphor for deep emotion. Think birth and the womb and you'll understand...

A Heart in it’s many variations

This simple gesture was believed to come from the early pagan earth goddess worship, where one heart was half of a friendship symbol and one heart was for a persons true love.  Or alternatively the seed of Silphium, a fennel-like plant used as a contraceptive / aphrodisiac in ancient Cyrene looked like a heart, just as other herbs used to be used for the body parts it physically represented and finally the hieroglyph for the ancient Egyptian 'ab' heart-soul, an erotic anatomical image. Magicians and Alchemists used the Heart symbols for incantations pertaining to matters related to love and romance. They were also used in rituals with a goal to strengthen relationships. The Heart has long been recognized across cultures as being a symbol for charity, joy and compassion. Also an emblem of truth, the "Sacred Heart" of Christ became the focus of Roman Catholic worship as a symbol of the Lord's love. Now isn’t that more interesting than a symbol popularized by a bunch of bottled-up Victorians?

Cupid and his arrows

Cupid or Eros means desire in Greek. According to Hesiod, Eros was the deity who came from Chaos ("The Yawning Void") and represented the primal forces of desire. Eros is said to have been born from the union of Aphrodite and Ares. Known as Amor (meaning love) to the Romans, the Cupid was often shown blindfolded in art to symbolize love's blindness. It was only until the late Victorian era when he received an arrow and bow and the twentieth century saw him often depicted with other symbols of love and romance.

Japanese Symbol is far more literal as is the Chinese Symbol for love

While not pictures or images, these symbols, equivalent to Western alphabet letters have been adopted more regularly as Eastern culture became more open and readily available for study. Often used in tattoo art and in art, the symbols for love have proliferated in Valentine's Day cards and in sentiment in Western cultures.


The Moon and star

The moon can represent emotions and the feminine side of our personality and the stars are lights that guide us in our search. While originally used to forecast the best time to plant and sow for pre-modern agriculture, the cycle of the moon and stars was combined with abundance and provisions from mother earth and feminine worship, representing eternal love and thankfulness. As certain African cultures developed, the Adinkra became a symbol of love, faithfulness and harmony.

Apple, preferably red

A symbol of ecstasy, fertility and abundance as well as love, the apple is a testimony to the adage "big things (or meanings in this case) come in small packages." While the pomegranate was believed to be the original fruit that tempted Adam in the garden of Eve, the apple replaced it as Christianity became more popular and moved Westward where this fruit was more readily available, replacing the red Mediterranean fruit. At her wedding to Zeus, Gaia supplied Apples to Hera signifying long love and union. Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, offered Apples to woo Aphrodite and win her love. Split apart, the Apple conjures an image of vulva, signifying feminine love and beauty. In China the Apple stands for peace and its blossom for adoration.

Celtic knots

Dating from before the fifth century B.C.E., the designs have been variously believed to represent basic tenants of life, mankind and spirituality. Two knots intertwined together represented lovers while the interlacing lines of the Celtic Knot stands for "no beginning, no ending, the continuity of everlasting love and binding together or intertwining of two soul or spirits. These knots could reflect anything related to God worship, animals or other theme that was important during festivals or difficult times.The evolution of the knot went onto include other specific items such as; 
  1. The Luckenbooth brooch was so called because it was sold from the "locked booths" on the Royal Mile adjacent to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland,in the early 1700s. Traditionally, it was exchanged between lovers on betrothal. The intertwining hearts of the brooch and the sometimes inscribed phases such as "of earthly joys thou art my choice" are evidence of its purpose, and a surmounting crown is symbolic of Mary Queen of Scots.
  2. The Welsh Love Spoon was an old Welsh custom of giving love spoons from a would-be suitor to a girl he wished to court. Begun in the 15th century, the suitor often carved the spoon himself or commissioned a spoon. Spoons became very ornate with symbols of love and promise.


Two Arrows

While many confuse two arrows with the arrows of that chubby little cherub cupid, they were in fact an ancient Native American symbol representing friendship and bonding where they crossed in the middle. Often, two different peoples or clans would be represented by two arrows when they laid down arms and came together in friendship.  Cupid would later be merged with arrows and a bow in his effort to spread love, lust and infatuation to the population, shooting the arrows at unsuspecting candidates.

The Harp

The Harp is a symbol of love in the form of lyrical art, poetry, and music. The Harp shares mythical connections to the Celts representing the bridge of love connecting heaven and earth. In Norway and Iceland, Harpstrings formed a ladder symbolizing the ascent to higher states of love and pathways leading to paradise. King David played the Harp to the Lord to express his devotion and love. It was later added to pictures of cupid and manufactured in the shape of a harp to further support it's origins and mythology.

The Maple Leaf, again, the red kind is preferred and also known as Sugar Maple

In China and Japan the Maple Leaf is an emblem of lovers. North American settlers used to place the Maple leaves at the foot of their beds to ward off demons and encourage sexual pleasure as well as peaceful sleep. Also in the North American region, the stork can be observed weaving Maple branches in nests - as such, the Maple became a symbol of the love found in welcoming a new child in the home. Just as the sweet rich sap produces Maple syrup so too does the Maple leaf serve as a love symbol depicting the sweetness and wonder of love in every day life.


Not just for geometry, but in Ancient Egypt the Triangle was seen as a symbol of intelligence and suggested the capacity for love. The triangle is a prime element of the Buddhist Shri Yantra mandala encouraging the invocation of love energy to achieve ascended states of consciousness and union with the divine. The Triangle also deals with the love represented in the mother, father, child union as well as the holy trinity. A graphic representation of an inverted triangle symbolizes a vessel in which love is poured or carried.

The Ladybug

Not just for good luck, but for love too! Asian traditions hold to the belief that if caught and then released, the Ladybug will faithfully fly to your true love and whisper your name in his/her ear. Upon hearing the Ladybug's message your true love will hurry his/her way to your side. Ancient farmers of the land have considered the Ladybug a good omen as she controls aphid populations. The number of spots on a Ladybug's back is said to indicate the number of months to pass before the wish for love comes true.

The Horse

While some cultures like that in Mesopatamia, attributed the horse with love for the earth as it drew a chariot from the sun to give life giving warmth to the earth, our focus is on romantic and erotic love. Under the seventh sign of the Chinese zodiac, the Horse is equated with practicality and love. As highly skilled horsemen, the Celts attributed the horse to Epona, also known as the Horse Goddess. Among other attributes, Epona was known for abundance, love and fertility. That’s what we’re talking about here!

The Dove and other love birds

While most often considered a symbol of peace and fraternal/maternal love and kindness, there is an element from some cultures in romantic love such as in Greco-Roman mythology, where the dove was a sacred creature to Aphrodite/Venus. Ancient Jewish practices permitted the Dove to be sacrificed as a love gift which signified the purification of a new mother after childbirth. In the West, the Dove (as well as turtledoves and other love birds) symbolize love and are frequently seen at weddings. The first mention of love birds was during the middle ages and through the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of modern English literature. One prominent member for symbols of love and romance would have to include swans, with their heart shaped necks and the frequent images of two swans forming this very obvious symbol of love.

A Dolphin

Along with speed, diligence and intelligence the Dolphin is also a messenger of love. This is partly due to its association with Delphi, which signifies the love embodied within the womb. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was said to take the form of the dolphin and was also known as the Woman of the Sea.

A Dragonfly

Ancient Norse mythology depicted a dragonfly or damselflies as being connected to Freya the Norse goddess of love, fertility and warfare. Freya was famous for her beauty and her knowledge as a magician. It was she who taught Odin the shamanic practices known as seidr which were still practiced during Christian times. The paired bodies of mating dragonflies form the shape of a heart, which may also be the source for that modern symbol of love.


What is clear, is the many symbols of love, some beautiful and melodic in their concept, while others are more forced and manufactured, originate from the mythologies of ancient Druids, Greeks and other cultures with rich histories to support the many symbols of love.  They have been developed over thousands of years with merging between cultures, religions and timelines. Some come directly from nature, with their uncanny imagery related to human symbols, while others have been mashed together to either co-opt or diffuse one country or cultures views over another.

For your own purposes, you can select one simple symbol recounting the origins and meaning of the image, or give your loved one a mash-up of some symbols of love that have special meaning for you and your partner. This Valentine's Day and any day throughout the year you will find it far easier to communicate your deep emotional feelings for your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend using these images and stories. Love comes in many forms and for you, they are all listed above.


About the Writer
Lorne Caplan started his career in biotech and medical device financing, moving into spas, skincare and all things anti-aging, aphrodisiac fragrance and pheromone/endocrine related.  This led him into his current focus on romance, passion and intimacy products and services where he developed  his product line and merged his knowledge of anti-aging therapies to those supporting relationships and couples. As a father and stepfather to five girls, his unique understanding of female physiology and mentality combined with his own personal experiences, allow for a unique and all encompassing perspective on these subjects.  Lorne is a speaker and presenter and has appeared on television shows such as Dr. Phil and is frequently published and quoted in multiple media outlets like Shape, and Spa 20/20.


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