Religious and political symbols in Unicode

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Unicode contains a number of characters that represent various cultural, political, and religious symbols.

Most but not all of these are in the Miscellaneous Symbols block.

Most of them are treated as graphic symbols that are not characters. [1] Exceptions to this include characters in certain writing systems that are also in use as political or religious symbols, such as 卐 (U+5350), the swastika encoded as a Chinese character (although it is also encoded as a religious symbol at U+0FD5); or ॐ (U+0950), the Om symbol which is strictly speaking a Devanagari ligature. A special case is ﷲ (U+FDF2), which is a special ligature of Arabic script used only for writing of the word Allah. It is in the Arabic Presentation Forms-A block which was encoded for compatibility only and is not recommended for use in regular Arabic text.[2]

Unicode defines the semantics of a character by its character identity and its normative properties, one of these being the character's general category, given as a two-letter code (e.g. Lu for "uppercase letter"). Characters that fall in the "political or religious" category are given the "general category" So, which is the catch-all category for "Symbol, other", i.e. anything considered a "symbol" which does not fall in any of the three other categories of Sm (mathematical symbols), Sc (currency symbols) or Sk (phonetic modifier symbols, i.e. IPA signs not considered letters).[3]

Armenian block[edit]

The Unicode chart for the Armenian block notes two religious symbols:[4]

Symbol Code point Name
֍ U+058D RIGHT-FACING ARMENIAN ETERNITY SIGN
֎ U+058E LEFT-FACING ARMENIAN ETERNITY SIGN


Dingbats block[edit]

The Dingbats block also contains some symbols with political/religious connotations:[5]

Symbol Code point Name
U+2719 OUTLINED GREEK CROSS
U+271A HEAVY GREEK CROSS
U+271B OPEN CENTER CROSS
U+271C HEAVY OPEN CENTER CROSS
U+271D LATIN CROSS
U+271E SHADOWED WHITE LATIN CROSS
U+271F OUTLINED LATIN CROSS
U+2720 MALTESE CROSS
U+2721 STAR OF DAVID

Enclosed Ideographic Supplement block[edit]

The Unicode chart for the Enclosed Ideographic Supplement block notes several symbols used for Chinese folk religion:[6]

Symbol Code point Name and notes
🉠 U+1F260 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR FU (luck)
🉡 U+1F261 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR LU (prosperity)
🉢 U+1F262 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR SHOU (longevity)
🉣 U+1F263 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR XI (happiness)
🉤 U+1F264 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR SHUANGXI (double happiness, love and marriage)
🉥 U+1F265 ROUNDED SYMBOL FOR CAI (wealth)

Miscellaneous Symbols block[edit]

The Unicode chart for the Miscellaneous Symbols block has a section explicitly labelled "Religious and political symbols":[7]

Text Emoji Code point Name and notes
☦︎ ☦️ U+2626 ORTHODOX CROSS
U+2627 CHI RHO = Constantine's cross, Christogram → 2CE9 coptic symbol khi ro
U+2628 CROSS OF LORRAINE
U+2629 CROSS OF JERUSALEM → 1F70A alchemical symbol for vinegar
☪︎ ☪️ U+262A STAR AND CRESCENT
U+262B FARSI SYMBOL = symbol of Iran (1.0)
U+262C ADI SHAKTI = Gurmukhi khanda - ਖੰਡਾ
U+262D HAMMER AND SICKLE
☮︎ ☮️ U+262E PEACE SYMBOL
☯︎ ☯️ U+262F YIN YANG → 0FCA Tibetan symbol nor bu nyis -khyil

Elsewhere in the block is:

Text Emoji Code point Name and notes
⛩️ U+26E9 SHINTO SHRINE

The emoji variants have U+FE0F after the symbol.

Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs block[edit]

The Unicode chart for the Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs block notes many religious symbols:[8]

Text Emoji Code point Name and notes
📿︎ 📿️ U+1F4FF PRAYER BEADS
🕀 U+1F540 CIRCLED CROSS POMMEE (Orthodox typicon symbol for great feast service)
🕁 U+1F541 CROSS POMMEE WITH HALF-CIRCLE BELOW (Orthodox typicon symbol for vigil service)
🕂 U+1F542 CROSS POMMEE (Orthodox typicon symbol for Polyeleos)
🕃 U+1F543 NOTCHED LEFT SEMICIRCLE WITH THREE DOTS (Orthodox typicon symbol for lower rank feast)
🕄 U+1F544 NOTCHED RIGHT SEMICIRCLE WITH THREE DOTS (Orthodox typicon symbol for lower rank feast)
🕅 U+1F545 SYMBOL FOR MARKS CHAPTER (Orthodox typicon symbol for difficult sections)
🕆 U+1F546 WHITE LATIN CROSS = cross outline
🕇 U+1F547 HEAVY LATIN CROSS
🕈 U+1F548 CELTIC CROSS
🕉︎ 🕉️ U+1F549 OM SYMBOL (generic symbol independent of Devanagari font)
🕊︎ 🕊️ U+1F54A DOVE OF PEACE = peace
🕋︎ 🕋️ U+1F54B KAABA
🕌︎ 🕌️ U+1F54C MOSQUE
🕍︎ 🕍️ U+1F54D SYNAGOGUE
🕎︎ 🕎️ U+1F54E MENORAH WITH NINE BRANCHES = hanukiah

Ostensibly religious symbols are, however, not limited to this section, as the same chart has another short section of two characters labelled "Syriac cross symbols", with the explanatory gloss "These symbols are used in liturgical texts of Syriac-speaking churches". Another short section of two symbols is headed "Medical and healing symbols", including U+2624 ☤ Caduceus (c.f. U+1F750 🝐 "alchemical symbol for caduceus"), U+2695 ⚕ "staff of Aesculapius and U+2625 ☥ Ankh, all of which originate in religious (polytheistic) tradition.[8]

Tibetan block[edit]

The Unicode chart for the Tibetan block notes several religious symbols:[9]

Symbol Code point Name and notes
U+0FD5 RIGHT-FACING SVASTI SIGN = gyung drung nang -khor (symbol of good luck and well-being in India)
U+0FD6 LEFT-FACING SVASTI SIGN = gyung drung phyi -khor
U+0FD7 RIGHT-FACING SVASTI SIGN WITH DOTS = gyung drung nang -khor bzhi mig can
U+0FD8 LEFT-FACING SVASTI SIGN WITH DOTS = gyung drung phyi -khor bzhi mig can

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jukka Korpela, Unicode Explained, O'Reilly, 2006, p. 13.
  2. ^ "FAQ: Middle Eastern Scripts and Languages". Unicode Consortium.
  3. ^ "In a set containing ☯, ☮ and ☭, there is something for every taste — within the limits of political correctness, of course, and a certain technocratic ethical standard. Unicode has not yet created a category for ostentatious religious suymbols, but one should not be long in coming..." Yannis Haralambous, P. Scott Horne (trans.), Fonts & Encodings, O'Reilly, 2007, p. 102
  4. ^ "Character Code Chart for Armenian" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  5. ^ "Character Code Chart for Dingbats" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  6. ^ "Character Code Chart for Enclosed Ideographic Supplement" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  7. ^ "Character Code Chart for Miscellaneous Symbols" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  8. ^ a b "Character Code Chart for Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.
  9. ^ "Character Code Chart for Tibetan" (PDF). Unicode Consortium.