The two standard sex symbols denoting male ♂ and female ♀are derived from astrological symbols, denoting the classical planets Mars and Venus, respectively. These symbols have been in use since the Renaissance also denoting elements in alchemy, specifically the metals iron and copper.
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. They are still used in scientific publications to indicate the sex of an individual, for example of a patient. Pedigree charts published in scientific papers now more commonly use a square for male and a circle for female.
The shape of the Mars symbol has been likened to an iron-tipped spear (i.e. a weapon mainly used by men) and shape of the Venus symbol to a bronze mirror or a distaff (associated with women in the past).
|Mars symbol (U+2642 ♂). The symbol for a male organism or man.|
|Venus symbol (U+2640 ♀). The symbol for a female organism or woman.|
|Square symbol (U+25A1 □). The symbol for a male family member in a pedigree chart.|
|Circle symbol (U+25CB ○). The symbol for a female family member in a pedigree chart.|
Related LGBT and scientific symbols
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Numerous variations of gender symbols have been developed in the context of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture since the 1970s. Some of these symbols have been adopted into Unicode beginning with version 4.1 (2005).
|From the symbol of Mercury (U+263F ☿). This symbol is used to indicate a virgin female (for example, in genetic analysis). Also used in botany to indicate flower with both male and female reproductive organs. Mercury is one traditional symbol used by intersex people; a usage that derives from Hermaphroditus of Greek mythology.|
|From the female and male symbols (U+26A5 ⚥). Intersex or transgender.|
|Another transgender symbol, a combination of the male and female sign with a third, combined arm representing non-binary transgender people (Unicode: U+26A7 ⚧).|
Other gender symbols in Unicode and table 4.1+:
|⚢ (U+26A2): Double female sign, often used to symbolize lesbianism.|
|⚣ (U+26A3): Double male sign, used since the 1970s to represent gay men.|
|⚤ (U+26A4): Interlocked male and female sign, used since the 1970s to represent gay liberation. Today it might also be used by a heterosexual who is aware of the diversity between men and women|
|⚦ (U+26A6): Male with stroke sign, used as a symbol for transgender.|
Public restroom pictograms
Standard AIGA symbols
- citation needed].[
- Stearn, William T. (May 1962). "The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology". Taxon. 11 (4): 109–113. doi:10.2307/1217734.
- 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. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
(Mars male gender symbol) indicates male; (female Venus gender symbol) indicates female
- 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. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
- "Symbolism". LGBTQA+ WebCenter. Eastern Illinois University. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
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