AskDefine | Define emblem

Dictionary Definition



1 special design or visual object representing a quality, type, group, etc.
2 a visible symbol representing an abstract idea [syn: allegory]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A representative symbol, such as a trademark or logo.
    The trucks were emblazoned with the emblem of the Red Cross and were not supposed to be targeted.
  2. Something which represents a larger whole.
    The rampant poverty in the ethnic slums was just an emblem of the group's disenfranchisement by the society as a whole.


  • Croatian: amblem

Extensive Definition

In current American usage, police officers' badges refer specifically to their personal metal emblem — sometimes with a uniquely identifying number or name on it — while the woven emblems sewn on their uniforms identify all the members of a particular unit.
A symbol substitutes one thing for another, in a more concrete fashion:
  • The Christian cross is a symbol of the Crucifixion; it is an emblem of sacrifice.
  • The Red Cross is a symbol of the International Red Cross. A red cross on a white flag is the emblem of the humanitarian spirit.
  • The crescent shape is a symbol of the moon; it is an emblem of Islam.
  • The skull and crossbones is an symbol identifying a poison. The skull is an emblem of the transitory human life.

Other terminology

A totem is specifically an animal emblem that expresses the spirit of a clan. Heraldry knows its emblems as charges. The lion passant serves as the emblem of England, the lion rampant as the emblem of Scotland.
An icon consists of an image (originally a religious image), that has become standardized by convention. A logo is an impersonal, secular icon, usually of a corporate entity.

Emblems in history

Since the 15th century the terms of emblem (emblema) and emblematura belong to the termini technici of architecture. They mean an iconic painted, drawn, or sculptural representation of a concept affixed to houses and belong — like the inscriptions — to the architectural ornaments (ornamenta). Since the publication of De architectura libri decem by Leon Battista Alberti (14041472) the emblems (emblema) are related to Egyptian hieroglyphics and are considered as being a secret iconic language. Therefore the emblems belong to the Renaissance knowledge of antiquity which comprises not only Greek and Roman antiquity but also Egyptian antiquity as proven by the numerous obelisks built in 16th and 17th century Rome.
The 1531 publication in Augsburg of the first emblem book, the Emblemata of the Italian jurist Andrea Alciato launched a fascination with emblems that lasted two centuries and touched most of the countries of western Europe. "Emblem" in this sense refers to a didactic or moralizing combination of picture and text intended to draw the reader into a self-reflective examination of his or her own life. Complicated associations of emblems could transmit information to the culturally-informed viewer, a characteristic of the 16th century artistic movement called Mannerism.
emblem in Bulgarian: Емблема
emblem in Catalan: Emblema
emblem in German: Emblem
emblem in Spanish: Emblema
emblem in Italian: Emblema
emblem in Macedonian: Амблем
emblem in Dutch: Emblema
emblem in Norwegian: Emblem
emblem in Polish: Godło
emblem in Romanian: Emblemă
emblem in Russian: Эмблема
emblem in Slovenian: Emblem
emblem in Swedish: Emblem
emblem in Turkish: Amblem
emblem in Ukrainian: Емблема

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adumbration, allegory, armory, attribute, badge, badge of office, badges, baton, blazonry, brassard, button, cap and gown, case, case in point, chain, chain of office, charactery, cipher, class ring, coat, cockade, collar, conventional symbol, crest, cross, decoration, demonstration, device, dress, eagle, emblems, ensigns, example, exemplar, exemplification, explanation, exponent, fasces, figurehead, fleur-de-lis, hammer and sickle, heraldry, iconology, ideogram, illustration, insignia, instance, lapel pin, livery, logo, logogram, logotype, love knot, mace, mantle, markings, medal, mortarboard, object lesson, old school tie, pictogram, pin, regalia, relevant instance, representation, representative, ring, rose, school ring, seal, shamrock, sigillography, sign, skull and crossbones, sphragistics, staff, swastika, symbol, symbolic system, symbolism, symbolization, symbology, tartan, thistle, tie, token, totem, totem pole, type, typical example, uniform, verge, wand
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