The civilization of Ireland (or the Celtic people) is an old one, dating as far back as 8000BC. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the country has a rich heritage and very old traditions and symbols. Irish symbols speak of creative, delightful people, from leprechauns to shamrocks and Claddaghs to the Celtic Cross. Below are some of the most popular Irish or Celtic symbols that have found their way through history, myths, legends, and folktales.

The Claddagh

The Claddagh This romantic symbol is composed of two hands holding a crowned heart. The Claddagh symbol shows the bonds of love, friendship, and loyalty. Some believe that the right hand of the symbol represents the father of Celtic Gods, called Dagda, while the left represents the mother goddess, Anu. The mystical, universal Celtic spirit, Beathauile, is believed to be the crown. The Christian version of this legend says that the crowned heart is a symbol of God the Father, and the two hands are his son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The Shamrock

The shamrock Anyone who sees this three-leafed plant automatically thinks of Ireland. The shamrock is a three-leafed clover that grows abundantly in Ireland. Some people say that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to spread Christianity in Ireland since the plant’s three leaves could represent the Holy Trinity. Other people say that the shamrock and the number three were considered magical in Celtic tradition, so this plant was believed to bring good luck.
Irish Symbols and their meanings

The Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross This symbol is a variation of the traditional Christian cross. The circle that circumnavigates the intersection of the cross is often believed to represent a fusion of the old ways and the new. It is said that St. Patrick combined the Christian cross with the sun cross that Pagans used. Many historians say that Irish monks already used Celtic crosses made of stone as far back as the 7th century.

The Leprechaun

The Leprechaun The legend of the leprechaun and his pot of gold is known by many people worldwide. A leprechaun is a fairy-like being in traditional Irish folklore. Clad in green, the leprechaun is often drawn as a bearded old man of dwarfish proportions. He has also been said to love mischief and pranks of all sorts.

The Irish Harp

The Irish Harp The Irish loved to entertain guests using a harp during the Gaelic times. Since then, it has always been a well-loved symbol of Ireland. The harp was used in documents written by Benedictine monks in the 8th century. It was also shown in coins made during the 1500s. It was also placed in the banners that were waved at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth 1. The harp was also featured prominently in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and became part of the national flag of Ireland from the 18th to the 19th centuries.

The Tricolor Flag of Ireland

The Tricolor Flag of Ireland The current flag of Ireland has three colours – white, orange and green. Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish nationalist and a revolutionary who fought for his country’s independence from the British, introduced this flag in 1848. He says that the white in the center of the flag represents the peace between the Irish people (represented by the green colour) and the English supporters of William III of England, popularly known as “William Henry of Orange.”

irish harpThe Harp

of the small portable type played by Celtic minstrels, is the oldest official symbol of Ireland. Though not as recognizable as the shamrock, the harp is widely used. It appears on Irish coins, the presidential flag, state seals, uniforms, and official documents. But the harp is most often associated with Guinness, which adopted the harp as its trademark in 1862.


Does tracking down a leprechaun and his hidden pot of gold sound improbable at best? Many people believe that the leprechaun keeps his gold at the end of a rainbow. Have you ever seen the end of a rainbow? Interestingly, one of the definitions of a rainbow is “a goal, hope, or an idea that is unlikely to be achieved or realized.”

The Banshee

The Banshee, from the Irish bean sídhe, is a feminine spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. In Irish legend, a banshee wails nearby if someone is about to die. There are particular families who are believed to have banshees attached to them and whose cries herald the death of a member of that family.


Merrow or Murrough (Galloway) is the Scottish and Irish Gaelic equivalent of the mermaid and mermen of other cultures. These beings are said to appear as humans from the waist up but have the body of a fish from the waist down. They have a gentle, modest, affectionate and benevolent disposition.


were originally half human, half-fairy aborigines who came from Kintyre in Scotland to later settle in Ireland. The Grogoch is well-known throughout north Antrim, Rathlin Island and parts of Donegal, Grogochs may also to be found on the Isle of Man, where they are called “Phynnodderee”. Resembling a very small elderly man, though covered in coarse, dense reddish hair or fur, he wears no clothes but sports a variety of twigs and dirt from his travels. Grogochs are not noted for their hygiene: there are no records of any female Grogochs.


A changeling is a creature found in Western European folklore and folk religion. It is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. Sometimes, the term is also used to refer to the child who was taken.


The Puca or Pooka (Irish for a goblin) is a creature of Celtic folklore, notably in Ireland, the West of Scotland, and Wales. It is one of the myriad fairy folk and, like many fairy folks, is both respected and feared by those who believe in it.
According to legend, the Puca is a deft shapeshifter, capable of assuming a variety of terrifying or pleasing forms, and may appear as a horse, rabbit, goat, goblin, or dog. No matter the Pooka’s shape, its fur is almost always dark. It most commonly resembles a sleek black horse with a flowing mane and luminescent golden eyes.

The Irish Dullahan

is a type of Unseelie fairie. It is headless, usually seen riding a black horse and carrying his head under one arm. The head’s eyes are massive and continuously dart about like flies, while the mouth is consistently in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head. The flesh of the head is said to have the colour and consistency of mouldy cheese. The Dullahan’s whip is a human corpse’s spine, and the wagons they sometimes use are made of similarly funereal objects. When the Dullahan stops riding, it is when a person is due to die. The Dullahan calls out their name, at which point they immediately perish.

St. Brigid’s CrossSt. Brigid’s Cross

St. Brigid’s Cross (also known as Brighid’s Cross and Bride’s Cross) is a revered Irish Christian symbol that appears to have the pagan sun wheel as its inspiration. It is usually woven from rushes, or occasionally straw, and is hung prominently by the house door or in the rafter to protect the building from fire and evil spirits. The cross was made to commemorate St. Brigid, who is one of the three patron saints of Ireland. Making it is a traditional ritual that is observed throughout the country on St. Brigid’s Feast Day, which falls on the 1st of February.


The Wolfhound or Hound is associated with some Celtic gods, goddesses and mythological heroes. It is seen as a source of healing power and a guardian figure. With its incredible size and strength, yet a noble bearing, this Irish beast became a status symbol and was gifted to honourable men. Several Chiefs and warriors even used Hound as a title, for instance, the ‘Hound of Culann’, to demonstrate their courage and loyalty. The Wolfhound has endured over the ages as an important Irish symbol representing Ireland’s heroic past.