Gender symbol

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
♀ ♂ ×
Gender symbol
In UnicodeU+2640 FEMALE SIGN


U+00D7 × MULTIPLICATION SIGN (denoting hybrid)

A gender symbol is a pictogram or glyph used to represent biological sex and gender in biology or medicine, in genealogy, or in the sociological fields of gender politics, LGBT subculture and identity politics.

In his Mantissa Plantarum (1767) and Mantissa Plantarum altera (1771), Carl Linnaeus regularly used , and (briefly) (subsequently ×) for 'male', 'female' and hybrid plants respectively.[1]

Pictograms used to indicate male and female public toilets became widely used beginning in the 1960s.[2]

Biology and medicine[edit]

The three standard sex symbols are the male symbol and the female symbol , and the hybrid symbol ×. They were first used to denote the effective sex of plants (i.e. sex of individual in a given crossbreed, since most plants are hermaphroditic) by Carl Linnaeus in 1751.[1] The male and female symbols are still used in scientific publications to indicate the sex of an individual, for example of a patient.[3] In biology, Linnaeus initially used the mercury symbol, , for hybrid but abandoned it in favour of the multiplication sign, ×, and this is the style used today (for example, Platanus × acerifolia for the London plane, a natural hybrid of P. orientalis (oriental plane) and P. occidentalis (American sycamore).[4][5])

Pedigree charts[edit]

Pedigree charts published in scientific papers now more commonly use a square for male and a circle for female.[6]


These symbols are derived from the initial letters of the Ancient Greek names of the classical planets Mars, Venus and Mercury and associated with the alchemical elements iron, copper and quicksilver (mercury), respectively.[1] Joseph Justus Scaliger speculated that the male symbol is associated with Mars, god of war because it resembles a shield and spear; and that the female symbol is associated with Venus, goddess of beauty because it resembles a bronze mirror with a handle.[7] Later scholars dismiss this as fanciful,[1][a] preferring "the conclusion of the French classical scholar Claude de Saumaise (Salmasius, 1588–1683) that these symbols [...] are derived from contractions in Greek script of the Greek names of the planets".[1][b]

The use of shapes as gender symbols may have originated from kinship diagrams in anthropology,[9] where a circle represents a female and a triangle represents a male.[10] The earliest form of kinship diagram that displays this is from 1871: Morgan's System of Consanguinity and Affinity of Human Family.[11] W. H. R River's system migrated to large letters for male, small letters for female, while in algebreic-type equations, the numerator denotes male and the denominator female.[12] Later, in C. G. Seligman's 1910 Dance Diagram, outlined circles illustrated females and shaded circles indicated males.[13]


Public toilets[edit]

Gender pictograms are frequently used to mark public toilets.

Sexual orientation and gender politics[edit]

Since the 1970s, variations of gender symbols have also been used to express sexual orientation and political ideology. The first instance of this was the use of two interlocking male symbols to represent male homosexuality.[14] Since the 2000s, numerous such variants have been introduced in the context of LGBT culture and politics. Some of these symbols have been adopted into Unicode (in the Miscellaneous Symbols block) beginning with version 4.1 (2005).


Unicode name symbol hex dec Meaning[c]
FEMALE SIGN[15] U+2640 ♀ Female[15]
MALE SIGN[15] U+2642 ♂ Male[15]
MERCURY[16] U+263F ☿ Hybrid[1] replaced by ×.
DOUBLED MALE SIGN[15] U+26A3 ⚣ Gay male[15]
DOUBLED FEMALE SIGN[15] U+26A2 ⚢ Lesbian[15]
INTERLOCKED MALE AND FEMALE SIGN[15] U+26A4 ⚤ Heterosexuality[15]
MALE WITH STROKE SIGN[15] U+26A6 ⚦ Transgender[15]
MALE AND FEMALE SIGN[15] U+26A5 ⚥ Male and female;[15] intersex;[15] androgynous;[15] hermaphrodite (in entomology)[15]
MEDIUM WHITE CIRCLE[17] U+26AA ⚪ Asexuality; sexless; genderless; engaged; betrothed[17]
MEN SYMBOL[18] 🚹 U+01F6B9 🚹 Man symbol; men's restroom[18]
WOMEN SYMBOL[19] 🚺 U+01F6BA 🚺 Woman symbol; women's restroom[19]
RESTROOM[20] 🚻 U+01F6BB 🚺 Man and woman symbol with divider; unisex restroom.[20][d]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The visual equivalent of a backronym
  2. ^ Thouros (Mars) was abbreviated as θρ, and Phosphoros (Venus) by Φ, in handwriting.[8][1]
  3. ^ These are the meanings associated with the glyph by the Unicode Consortium. Meanings that other organizations have associated with them subsequently, are not included.
  4. ^ This symbol is often seen on an outer door leading to separate facilities behind inner doors


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stearn, William T. (May 1962). "The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology". Taxon. 11 (4): 109–113. doi:10.2307/1217734. JSTOR 1217734. S2CID 87030547. The origin of these symbols has long been of interest to scholars. Probably none now accepts the interpretation of Scaliger that represents the shield and spear of Mars and Venus's looking glass.
  2. ^ Sex-segregated public bathrooms existed since at least the 1880s, originally labelled in writing. The stick-figure pictograms were popularized with their introduction by British Rail in the 1960s. The genius behind the stick figure toilet signs, BBC Future (2014): "One of the best early examples of intuitive global signs for public lavatories was that created for British Rail in the mid-1960s. [...] In the 1970s, the British example was developed on a more comprehensive basis in the United States. In 1974, the US Department of Transportation commissioned the American Institute of Graphic Arts to create a set of pictograms to be used throughout public transport networks whether road, rail, air or sea." "In Poland, meanwhile, you can come across lavatories indicating 'gents' with a triangle and 'ladies' with a circle, while in Lithuania men are represented by an inverted pyramid and women by a pyramid standing the right way up."
  3. ^ Zhigang, Zhigang; et al. (25 September 2009). "A HIV-1 heterosexual transmission chain in Guangzhou, China: a molecular epidemiological study". Virology Journal. BioMed Central. 6 (148): Figure 1. doi:10.1186/1743-422X-6-148. PMC 2761389. PMID 19778458. (Mars male gender symbol) indicates male; (female Venus gender symbol) indicates female
  4. ^ McNeill, J.; et al. (Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Prud'homme Van Reine, W.F.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J.) (2012). International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011. Regnum Vegetabile 154. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG. ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6.
  5. ^ "'Columbia' and 'Liberty' Planetree" (PDF). U.S. National Arboretum. 1999. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  6. ^ Schott, G D (24 Dec 2005). "Sex symbols ancient and modern: their origins and iconography on the pedigree". BMJ. British Medical Journal. 331 (7531): 1509–1510. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1509. PMC 1322246. PMID 16373733.
  7. ^ Taylor, Robert B. (2016), "Now and Future Tales", White Coat Tales, Springer International Publishing, pp. 293–310, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-29055-3_12, ISBN 978-3-319-29053-9
  8. ^ H W Renkema, Oorsprong, beteekenis en toepassing van de in de botanie gebuikelijke teekens ter aanduiding van het geslacht en den levensduur, in: Jeswiet J, ed., Gedenkboek J Valckenier Suringar. Wageningen: Nederlandsche Dendrologische Vereeniging, 1942: 96-108.
  9. ^ "Kin Diagrams". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  10. ^ "Kin Diagrams". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  11. ^ Morgan, Lewis Henry (1870). Systems of consanguinity and affinity of the human family. University of California Libraries. [Washington, Smithsonian Institution.
  12. ^ Wilson, Ara (2018-07-24). "Visual Kinship". History of Anthropology Review. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  13. ^ "C. G. Seligman". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  14. ^ "Symbolism". LGBTQA+ WebCenter. Eastern Illinois University. Archived from the original on 12 February 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2015. Double interlocking female symbols are often been used [sic] to symbolize lesbianism, but some feminists have instead used the double female symbols to represent sisterhood among women and three interlocking female symbols to denote lesbianism. In the 1970’s, some lesbian feminists used three interlocking female symbols to represent their rejection of male standards of monogamy.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Miscellaneous Symbols | Gender symbols". Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  16. ^ "Unicode Utilities: Character Properties". Unicode Codepoint 263F. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  17. ^ a b "Miscellaneous Symbols – Range: 2600–26FF – 26AA" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  18. ^ a b "Transport and Map Symbols – Range: 1F680–1F6FF – 1F6B9" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  19. ^ a b "Transport and Map Symbols – Range: 1F680–1F6FF – 1F6BA" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  20. ^ a b "Transport and Map Symbols – Range: 1F680–1F6FF – 1F6BB" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 2020-07-01.

External links[edit]