10 Widely Used Symbols With Interesting Stories!

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We see these symbols almost everyday, but never once stop to think about where they come from. Also, ain't nobody got time for that, right? But we took the time and the energy and compiled the stories about the origin of these 10 symbols for you. You are welcome!

1. Heart symbol:

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The oldest version of the heart symbol dates back to the end of the ice age, and was seen in the drawings of Cro-Magnon (early Homo Sapiens). However, it is believed that it was associated with its modern meaning first in the Middle Ages. Some others think that the seed shape of a plant called silphium, which was used for birth control and is now extinct, was the source of the inspiration for this symbol. Moreover, the city-state Cyrene used the shape of the seeds on their money, which contributed to its association with love and sex, as well as its spread.

Some others, on the other hand, base this symbol's emergence on a holy story: the heart symbol covered with barb wire that Jesus Christ held was what inspired today's heart symbol. Historians, however, argue that the use of this symbol dates back to way earlier times than the 16th century.

2. Dollar symbol:

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This world-renown symbol initially belonged to the Peso, the currency originating from Spain. What made this symbol internationally recognized was the ore mining in Central and South America. The traders started to write the letters "P" and "S" on each other to symbolize this currency, which was the most widely used currency in the world. In the 1770's, the symbol evolved into "$" and was adopted as the currency symbol by the newly founded USA.

3. Arrow symbol:

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This symbol dates back to very old times. It is believed that it came about for the first time in Ancient Greece and was used to symbolize foot steps at the time. The proof lies in the ancient city called Ephesus, which is now located in Turkey. A woman's face and a foot step symbol carved on a rock is thought to show the direction for a brothel.

Some others, however, argue that this symbol comes from the middle finger image, which dates back to the Middle Ages and became popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. It wasn't until the 18th century that this symbol started to be used as a visual, informative sign. The symbols used at that time mostly looked like a real arrow.

4. Addition and subtraction symbols:

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The symbols for addition and subtraction signs date back to the 15th century. The symbol "+" is one of the abbreviations of the Latin word "et," which means "and." Although we know that the person who used this symbol in math for the first time in the 14th century was an astronomer named Nicole d’Oresme, it wasn't until the 15th century that these symbols replaced the symbols "p" and "m" that were used in Europe.

The symbol "-", on the other hand, is thought to be the abbreviation of the sign used for subtraction at the time: "m". Both of these symbols were widely used all over the world in the 16th century.

5. Asterisk and dagger symbols:

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The asterisk symbol, which we see a lot today; and the dagger (obelisk) symbol, which we hardly come across; were originally used to specify birth and death dates in traditional European typography; as well as to sign a pause in older notations. Some researchers state that these symbols date back to the Sumerians 5000 years ago, and that these were used as holy signs. Several other, more reliable sources, however, argue that these two symbols were initially used in the Library of Alexandria and that they can be seen in the books of this library.

6. Exit sign:

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Two kinds of exit symbols are used worldwide: one of them is what you see in the picture, the word "EXIT" in red; which is mostly preferred in the USA; and the second one, the green man figure that is running towards the door; which is more popular in other parts of the world.

The origin of the USA version of this symbol is the fire in a textile factory named Triangle Shirtwaist, which took place in 1911, and caused 146 deaths. After this unfortunate event, the National Fire Protection Association started to take work safety seriously and decided that every work place must have this sign.

The second symbol, which is more widely used than the first, is the design of Yukio Ota, who ranked first in the competition for an exit sign, held by the Japanese Fire Safety Commission. Although small changes have been made to this design, it has become the standard around the world.

7. Radiation symbol:

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Another symbol used world-wide, the radiation sign, was first developed by a group working at the radiation lab at the University of California, Berkeley. The sign symbolizes an atom that gives out radiation. Some people claim that the three wings around the atom symbolize the alpha, beta and gamma radiations; however the validity of this assertion is not known for certain, yet.

8. Stop sign:

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During the times when cars were becaming widespread, an incredible competition and chaos between automobiles, horses and bicycles prevailed. The first stop sign was put up in Detroit, USA exactly for this reason. However at the time, the text was black and the background was white. During the following years, different colors of signs started to be produced according to the danger level in the corresponding area. Later on, the stop sign we know today became the standard.

9. Gender symbols:

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These ones come from Greek Mythology and symbolize the planets Mars and Venus, which are associated with male and female genders respectively. However, this isn't the whole story.

In the practices of antic astrology and alchemy; specific celestial bodies were associated with specific metals found on earth. For example, the Sun, Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn were identified with gold, silver, iron, mercury, copper and tin; respectively. After a while, when people started using various Latin letters and symbols for the elements, a botanist named Carl Linnaeus adopted the same system to classify and identify plants. In his system, the Mars and Venus symbols started to be used to differentiate the genders of the plants. In short, these gender symbols that we use today were originally intended for celestial bodies.

10. Question mark:

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Although we don't have a perfectly accurate idea about the origins of the question mark, several claims have been put forward. One of the most famous of these claims is that the question mark have evolved from the word "qo," the abbreviation of the Latin word "quaestio," which means "question" or "to ask." Another hypothesis is that it was derived from the sign used to specify the toning at the end of a question sentence in the Middle Age musical notation system. There are also other more "crazy" ideas, such that the question mark comes from Egypt and that it was inspired from a cat's tail.

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