Looped square

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The ⌘ symbol as seen on a Swedish road sign (No. H22) for national heritage
The ⌘ symbol on a 1977 Finnish 5 penni coin

The looped square (), also known as Saint John's Arms, Saint Hannes cross (related to Swedish sankthanskors, Danish johanneskors, and Finnish hannunvaakuna), and as the command-key symbol due to its use on the command key on Apple computer keyboards, is a symbol consisting of a square with outward pointing loops at its corners. It is referred to as a looped square, for example, in works regarding the Mississippian culture[1] (approximately 800 CE to 1600 CE). It is also known as the place of interest sign[2] when used on information signs, a practice that started in Finland in the 1950s, spreading to the other Nordic countries in the 1960s.[3]

It is an ancient symbol used by several cultures, and remains in common use today. It belongs to a class of symbols which are called valknute in Norway.[4]

Ancient use[edit]

The symbol appears on a number of ancient objects in Northern Europe. It features prominently on a picture stone from Hablingbo, Gotland, Sweden, that was created between 400 and 600 CE.[5]

It is also similar to a traditional heraldic emblem called a Bowen knot.[6]

In Finland, the symbol was painted or carved on houses and barns, and domestic utensils such as tableware, to protect them and their owners from evil spirits and bad luck. The oldest surviving example is a pair of 1000-year-old (Finnish pre-Christian period) wooden skis decorated with the symbol.[7][8]

The looped square also appears on artifacts of the Mississippian culture of the southeastern United States.[1]

While not a true knot, many depictions follow the convention for heraldic knots in that the crossings of the strand obey an under–over pattern.

Traditional names[edit]

The English names Saint John's Arms, Saint Hannes cross or Saint Hans's Cross as well as the Scandinavian names refer to John the Baptist. The connection is that the celebration of Midsummer's Eve is a major festival in Scandinavia, which in the Julian calendar coincided with the Christian feast celebrating the nativity of Saint John the Baptist, and that the (pagan) symbol was associated with the Midsummer celebrations.[9]

Modern use[edit]

Aerial view of Borgholm Castle

In modern times, the symbol is commonly found in Belarus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine as an indicator of locations of cultural interest, beginning in Finland in the 1950s and spreading to the other Nordic countries in the 1960s.[3] There has been modern speculation that it was chosen for its resemblance to an aerial view of Borgholm Castle;[10] however, as stated its use for attractions began in Finland, not Sweden, and the symbol is well-represented in Scandinavian artifacts that predate the current castle by centuries.[5]

The symbol later gained international recognition via computing. It is used on Apple keyboards as the symbol for the command key[11] as well as in elementary OS as the symbol for the Super key.[12]

The looped square is used in the logos of Belgian telecommunications company Proximus and Canadian software company DistillerSR.[13][14]


In Unicode, it is encoded at U+2318 PLACE OF INTEREST SIGN, in the block Miscellaneous Technical.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b C. Andrew Buchner (2010). "Cox Mound Gorget". Tennessee Encyclopedia. Tennessee Historical Society. Retrieved 9 May 2013. The Cox Mound, or Woodpecker, gorget style is a particularly beautiful and enduring symbol of Tennessee's prehistoric inhabitants. [...] Surrounding the cross and sun is a scroll-like design element known as the looped square. This feature may represent wind, or possibly the litter on which subordinates carried a chief.
  2. ^ "Miscellaneous Technical – Range: 2300-23FF" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  3. ^ a b "Riksantikvarieämbetets historia". raa.se (in Swedish). Riksantikvarieämbetet - Swedish National Heritage Board. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  4. ^ Municipal arms for Lødingen, blazoned in the Norwegian Royal Decree of 11 May 1984, quoted in Hans Cappelen og Knut Johannessen: Norske kommunevåpen, Oslo 1987, page 197. The term is also used in Anders Bjønnes: Segltegninger fra hyllingene i Norge 1591 og 1610, Oslo 2010, pages 64–65.
  5. ^ a b "The Picture Stone from Havor in Hablingbo". Länsmuseet på Gotland. Archived from the original on 13 September 2008.
  6. ^ Parker, James (1894). A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry: Cord. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
  7. ^ Talve, Ilmar (1990). Suomen kansankulttuuri (in Finnish). ISBN 951-717-553-1.
  8. ^ Department of Archaeology. "Ski fragment". Nat'l Board of Antiquities (in Finnish). Helsinki: Finnish Museums Online. p. KM9908:1. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013.
  9. ^ Webb, Stephen: Clash of Symbols: A ride through the riches of glyphs, 1st ed. 2018, p. 61, ISBN 978-3319713496, online, p. 61, at Google Books
  10. ^ Kare, Susan (7 June 2014). "Susan Kare, Iconographer (EG8)". Vimeo.com. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  11. ^ Dan Frommer (2 July 2011). "What does Splat mean?". SplatF. Say Media. Retrieved 9 May 2013. Splat refers to the key on a Mac keyboard that's officially called the Command key. Some old-school Mac nerds — my father included — call it the "splat" key, because the symbol sort of looks like something that went "splat". The symbol itself, also known as Saint John's Arms or the "place of interest sign"... is often seen in Northern Europe.
  12. ^ Why the Looped Square (⌘) Symbol?. Medium. 1 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Welcome to Proximus – Internet, mobile, phone and TV". www.proximus.be. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  14. ^ "Systematic Review and Literature Review Software by DistillerSR". DistillerSR. Retrieved 30 March 2023.

External links[edit]