Religious and political symbols in Unicode

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Unicode contains a number 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 ࿕ (U+0FD5), the swastika encoded as a Chinese character; or ॐ (U+0950), the Aum symbol which is strictly speaking a Devanagari ligature. A special case is ﷲ (U+FDF2), the llah glyph of the Arabic alphabet codepage which is a special ligature of the Arabic script which, however, has as its only application in the writing of the word Allah.[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]

The Unicode consortium in its Miscellaneous Symbols chart has a section explicitly labelled "Religious and political symbols", running from U+2626 to U+262F. The symbols in the section labelled "Religious and political symbols" are:

2627 ☧ CHI RHO = Constantine's cross, Christogram → 2CE9 ⳩ coptic symbol khi ro
2629 ☩ CROSS OF JERUSALEM → 1F70A alchemical symbol for vinegar
262B ☫ FARSI SYMBOL = symbol of Iran (1.0)
262C ☬ ADI SHAKTI = Gurmukhi khanda
262F ☯ YIN YANG → 0FCA ࿊ Tibetan symbol nor bu nyis -khyil

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.[4]

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

2719 ✙ Outlined Greek cross
271A ✚ Heavy Greek cross
271B ✛ Open center cross
271C ✜ Heavy open center cross
271D ✝ Latin cross
271E ✞ Shadowed white Latin cross
271F ✟ Outlined Latin cross
2720 ✠ Maltese cross
2721 ✡ Star of David

The original "Miscellaneous Symbols" block was filled with Unicode version 6.0 (2010), and the Unicode Consortium with that version introduced an additional "Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs" block at U+1F300–1F5FF with a new "Religious symbols" section at U+1F540–1F54A, including typographical symbols used in Orthodox Christian literature, but also a new "OM SYMBOL" 🕉 U+1F549 (intended as independent of the Devanagari ligature ॐ) and a "DOVE OF PEACE" 🕊 U+1F54A.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Jukka Korpela, Unicode Explained, O'Reilly, 2006, p. 13.
  2. ^ in the Arabic Presentation Forms-A block, use of which is deprecated as it exists solely for "compatibility with some older, legacy character sets that encoded presentation forms directly" The Unicode Consortium. FAQ - Middle East Scripts Archived October 1, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  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. ^ a b "Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs" (PDF). Retrieved 23 October 2014.