Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 24 February |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Josef Mayr-Nusser
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Where did the peace symbol come from?


Nick Karvounis | CC0

Sophia Swinford - published on 08/16/18

This popular icon has a more complicated meaning that you might have thought.

You’ve seen it everywhere. What first appeared on protest signs in the late 1950s now adorns fashion, interior decor, and social media posts galore. But where did the peace symbol come from, and who designed it?

Various theories have erupted over what the symbol actually represents, but now you can rest easy knowing the answers are just a few seconds away. Here’s a history of the peace symbol in 7 quick facts:

  1. The peace symbol first appeared at a protest against nuclear weapons in 1958 in Trafalgar Square in London.
  2. The peace symbol was created by designer Gerald Holtom, who developed the symbol for the 1958 protest especially.
  3. The design comes from a combination of the letters “N” and “D” in the semaphore alphabet, the code used by sailors to communicate messages from a distance. “N” and “D” stood for “nuclear disarmament”.

4. But Holtom also intended the image to evoke “an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards.”

5. Likely brought over by Bayard Rustin, who attended the 1958 march in London, the peace symbol first appeared in the United States in the name of the civil rights movement.

6. In the 1960s, the peace symbol found its true fame as a representative of the anti-war protests.

7. In 1969, the John Birch Society published an article decrying the peace symbol. Their false claim that the symbol was satanic received such popularity that this misconception still continues today.

The peace symbol has become so widely used that many have forgotten where it originated and what inspired it, but knowing the origins of these popular symbols cast them in a new light and inspire a deeper consideration of them.


Read more:
This popular prayer for peace can transform a person’s heart

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
A song to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines
Bret Thoman, OFS
Padre Pio says this is a sin that’s difficult to forgive &#...
Philip Kosloski
Why does Lent last 40 days?
Philip Kosloski
10 Things you should know about the Catholic Mass
Jim McIngvale
Cerith Gardiner
Mattress Mack steps up again to help those suffering freezing wea...
Philip Kosloski
Rarely seen photos of Fatima visionaries, Lucia, Jacinta and Fran...
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.