Tombstone Symbols and Fraternal Abbreviations

What do all those symbols and initials mean?

Here is a list of other common (and not so common) tombstone symbols.  You

might want to print this off and carry it with you when you go tombstone hunting :


Angels - Angels mean spirituality and they guard the tomb.

Bible - A single Holy Bible is often found on Christian stones.

Holy Books (2) - on Mormon headstones indicates the Bible and the Book of

Holy Books (3) - on Mormon Headstones, these indicate The Scripture of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Bible, Book of Mormon, and
Doctrine & Covenants.

Chalice - Usually used to represent the Sacraments.

Crescent - the deceased was probably a Muslim.

Crown - The soul's achievement and the Glory of life after death.

Cross - the Cross is an emblem of faith. There are many different types of
crosses and each may mean something different. For a good explanation of the
various types of crosses, see, a
part of The City of the Silent.

Heart (Sacred) - Usually found in Catholic cemeteries, this heart refers to
the suffering of Christ for our sins.

Menorah - An emblem of Judaism

Star of David or Mogen David - Recognized as the international symbol of


Arrow - Mortality

Broken Column - This image represents the decay. It usually represents the
loss of the Family head.

Candle being Snuffed - Loss of life.

Coffin - mortality.

Figure with Dart - Mortality

Grim Reaper - Death personified.

Hourglass - Time has run out.

Scythe - An instrument of the harvest, death cuts us down.

Skull and or Skull/ Crossed Bones - Death.

Spade or Crossed Spade and Shovel - Death

Trade and Occupation: (emblems that MIGHT indicate a person's occupation in

Barber Bowl (for bleeding) & Razor.

Butcher - an axe, steel knife and cleaver.

Farmer: - Coulter (type of hoe), flail (threshing implement), swingletree
(rod for beating flax), stalk of corn.

Gardener - Rake & Spade.

Mason - Wedge & Level

Mariner: - Anchor, Sextant & Cross Staff.

Merchant - Scales, some type of sign.

Minister - Bible

Shoemaker - Leather cutter's Knife, Nippers, Sole cutter & Awl

Smith - Crown, Hammer & Anvil

Teacher - Open Book.

Weaver - Loom, Shuttle & Stretchers.

Wright - (a worker skilled in the manufacture especially of wooden
objects --usually used in combination <shipwright> <wheelwright> - Compasses

Resurrection, Eternal Life, Immortality:

Angel, Flying or Trumpeting - Rebirth; Resurrection.

Bird or Bird Flying - Eternal life, Resurrection.

Cross: - The Cross means resurrection to many Christians.

Dove, Flying - Resurrection.

Flame, Light, Lamp or Torch: - Immortality of the Spirit, Resurrection.

Garland or Wreath - Symbol of saintliness and glory, Victory in death.

Horns -- The Resurrection

Ivy - Immortality

Rooster- Awakening; Resurrection.

Star - Death could not overpower the Light of the Spirit which still shines
in the darkness.

Sun - A symbol of light and warmth, renewed life and life everlasting.

Trumpeters -- Harbingers of the Resurrection

Urn - Immortality (The storing of the vital organs was of extreme importance
to the ancient Egyptians who believed that life would be restored through
the vital organs placed in the urn).


Birds - Eternal life or resurrection.

Butterfly - Short-life.

Dog - Implies a good master worthy of love.

Dove - Seen in both Christian and Jewish cemeteries, the dove means
innocence and/ or peace.

Lamb - Usually marks the grave of a child and means Innocence.

Lion - The Lion's eternal watch guards the tomb and stands for Courage.

Rooster - Awakening; Resurrection.


Fruits -- Eternal plenty as in the fruit of life.

Full-Blown Rose - The deceased died in the prime of life

Ivy -- Ivy stands for friendship and also immortality.

Laurel -- A symbol of worldly accomplishment and heroism.

Lily - The virgins' flower and also the symbol of innocence and purity.

Morning Glory - Signifies the beginning of Life

Oak., Oak Leaves and Acorn - Oak leaves on tombs can stand for power,
authority or victory. Often seen on Military tombs.

Palm Branch - Signifies Victory and Rejoicing

Poppy - Eternal Sleep.

Roses - Roses signify completion and the brevity of earthly existence.

Rosemary - Rosemary is for remembrance. Thistles can also stand for

Thistle - Deceased was of Scottish descent.

Tree or Trees

A Tree stands for life.
A Tree Sprouting stands for life everlasting.
Tree Trunk stands for the brevity of life.
Stones shaped liked Tree Stumps usually signify that the deceased was a
member of The Woodmen of the World
Weeping Willow Tree - Perpetual Mourning; Grief.

Wheat Strands or Sheaves - The divine harvest.


Broken Ring -- The family circle has been severed.

Cherub - Cherubs are angelic and signify innocence.

Crossed Swords - Military person of high rank.


Hands in cemeteries are usually in one of the following four positions;
clasping, praying, pointing, and blessing.
Hand, Pointing Up - Pathway to heaven.
Hands, Clasped - Farewells or the bond of marriage
Hands, Praying - Asking God for Eternal life.
Hands, Blessing - Blessing of those left behind.
Harp - Praise to the God.

Heart - Love. Stylized hearts stand for the affection of the living for the
dead. Two joined hearts on a stone mark a marriage,

Rod or Staff - Comfort for the bereaved.

Stars and Stripes Around Eagle -- Eternal vigilance and liberty. Often seen
on military markers.

Urn with Flame -- Undying remembrance

Initials of Fraternal Organizations:

AOH- Ancient Order of Hibernians
BPOE- Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks
CAR- Children of the American Revolution
DAR- Daughters of the American Revolution
FOE- Fraternal Order of Eagles
FOP- Fraternal Order of Police
F&AM- Free and Accepted Masons
GAR- Grand Army of the Republic
I.O.R.M.- Improved Order of Red Men
IOF- Independant Order of Foresters
IOOF- Independant Order of Odd Fellows
IOJD- International Order of Job's Daughters
J.O.A.M.- Junior Order of American Mechanics
J.O.U.A.M.- Junior Order of United American Mechanics
K.of C.- Knights of Columbus
K.of P.- Knights of Pythias
KT- Knights Templar
LOM- Loyal Order of Moose
M.W.A. Modern Woodmen of America
N.O.W. Neighbors of Woodcraft
RA- Royal Academy
RA- Royal Arcanum
R.A.M.- Royal Arch Masons
*R.N.A. Royal Neighbors of America
SAR- Sons of the American Revolution
S.F.W.C. Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle
U.S.A.- United States Army
U.S.A.F.- United States Air Force
U.S.M.C.- United States Marine Corp
U.S.N.- United States Navy
YMCA- Young Men's Christian Association
YWCA- Young Women's Christian Association
W.C. Woodmen Circle
W.O.W. Woodmen of the World
W.O.W. Women of Woodcraft


AAONMS Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Masonic) ("The
AASR Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (Masonic)
ABA American Benefit Association
AF&AM Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
AMD Allied Masonic Degree
AMORC Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis(Rosicrucians)
AMOS Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans (see IOOF)
AOF Ancient Order Of Foresters
AOH Ancient Order Of Hibernians
AOKMC Ancient Order Of Knights of Mystic Chain
AOUW Ancient Order Of United Workmen
ALOH American Legion of Honor
APA American Protective Association
AUM Ancient Order of Mysteries (MASONS)
AUSA Association of the United States Army
AUV Association of Union Veterans
BARE Benefit Association Of Railway Employees
BAY Brotherhood of American Yeomen
BKA Benevolent Knights Association
BKofM Black Knights of Molders
BPOE Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
BPOEW Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World
BofRTM Brotherhood of Rail Road Track Men
BLE Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
BLF&E Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Engineers
BRT Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen
CBL Catholic Benevolent Legion
CD of A Catholic Daughters of America
CKofA Catholic Knights of America
CMBA Catholic Mutual Benefit Association
COOF Catholic Order of Foresters
CTAS Catholic Total Abstinence Society
CBKA Commandery Benevolent Knights Association
CCTAS Crusaders-Catholic Total Abstinence Society
DAC Daughters of the American Colonists
DAR (NSDAR) National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
DAV Disabled American Veterans
D of A Daughters of America
DoL Daughters of Liberty
DAN Daughters of the Nile (Masonic)
DOKK Dramatic Order Knights of Khorassan (Knights of Pythias)
DOLLUS Dames of the Loyal Legion of the United States
DUV Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War
ECV E Clampus Vitus
EAU Equitable Aid Union
EBA Emerald Beneficial Association
FAM Free and Accepted Masons
F&AM Free and Accepted Masons
FCB Knights of Pythias
FLT Independent Order of Odd Fellows
FOE Fraternal Order of Eagles
FOAST Fraternal Order of Alaska State Troopers
FOF Fraternal Order of Firefighters
FOP Fraternal Order of Police
GALSTPTR German American Legion of St. Peter
GAR Grand Army of the Republic
GLAUM Grand Lodge Ancient Order of Mysteries- Masonic Order
GLDS Grand Lodge Daughters of Scotia
GUOOF Grand United Order of Odd Fellows
HZ Haro Zaro
IBBH International Brotherhood of Blacksmiths and Helpers
ICBU Irish Catholic Benevolent Union
IHSV Red Cross of Constantine
IOA International Order of Alhambra
IODE Independent Order, Daughters of the Empire
IOGT International Order of Good Templars
IOH Improved Order of Heptasophs
IOHH International Order of Hoo-Hoo
IOI Independent Order of Immaculates
IOKP Independent Order of Knights of Pythias
IOOF Independent Order of Odd Fellows
IOOF-PM Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Past Master
ISH Independent Sons of Honor
IOStL Independent Order of St. Luke
IOF Independent Order of Foresters
IORM Improved Order of Redmen (Sons of Liberty)
IOR Independent Order of Rechabites
IOV International Order of Vikings
IUOM Independent United Order of Mechanics
IWW Industrial Workers of the World
IOF Independent Order of Foresters
IOOF Independent Order of Odd Fellows
IOJD Independent Order of Job's Daughters
IORG International Order of Rainbow Girls (Masonic)
ISDA Italian Sons and Daughters of America
JOAM Junior Order of American Mechanics
JOUAM Junior Order of United American Mechanics
JAOUW Junior Order-Ancient Order of United Workmen
JOUAM Junior Order-Order of United American Mechanics
KC Knights of Columbus
KGC Knights of the Golden Chain
KGC Knights of the Golden Circle
KGE Knights of the Golden Eagle
KGL Knight Grand Legion
KLH Knights and Ladies of Honor
KM Knights Militant (See KKK)
KofC Knights of Columbus
KofFM Knights of Father Matthew
KFM Knights of Father Matthew
KofH Knights of Honor
KOL Knights of Labor
KofL Knights of Loyola
KM Knights of Malta (Masonic)
KMC Knights of the Mystic Chain
KOTM Knights of the Macabees
KPC Knights of Peter Claver
KofTM Knights of the Macabees
KP Knights of Pythias
KofP Knights of Pythias
KSC Knights of St. Columbkille
KG Knights of St. George
KSTG Knights of St. George
KSTI Knights of St. Ignatius
KofSJ Knights of St. John
KSTJ Knights of St. Joseph
KSL Knights of St. Lawrence
KSTM Knights of St. Martin
KofSTP Knights of St. Patrick
KSTP Knights of St. Paul
KSTP Knights of St. Peter
KSTT Knights of St. Thomas
KofSTW Knights of St. Wenceslas
KT Knights of Tabor
KofT Knights of Tabor
KT Knights Templars (Masonic)
KWM Knights of Wise Men
KGE Knights of Golden Eagle
KHC Knights of Holy Cross
KKK Knights of Klu-Klux Klan
KOTM Knights of Macabees
KSF Knights of Sherwood Forest
LAOH Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians
LDG Independent Order of Foresters
LGAR Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic
LKofA Loyal Knights of America
LOL Loyal Order Orange Lodge (The Orange Order){Orange Men}
LOM Legion of the MOOSE
LOOM Loyal Order of the MOOSE
LOVUS Legion of Valor of the United States
MBS Mutual Benefit Society
MOLLUS Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
MOOSE Loyal Order of the Moose
MOPH Military Order of the Purple Heart
MOVPER Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Mystic Realm (Grotto)
MRA Royal Arcanum
MCL Marine Corps League
MWA Modern Woodmen of America
NCOA Non-Commissioned Officers Association (Military Society)
NEOP New England Order of Protection
NOK New Order Knights (see KKK)
NL Navy League
NSDAR National Society Daughters of American Revolution
NSSUP National Society Sons of Utah Pioneers
NU National Union
OofA Order of Amaranth (Masonic)
OCF Order of Chosen Friends
OofUF Order of United Friends
OGC Order of the Golden Cross
ODHS Des Schwestern Verbandes (Sisters of the Federation
OES Order of the Eastern Star
OSC Order of Scottish Clans (St. Andrew's Societies)
OUAM Order of United American Mechanics
PFofA Patriotic Friends of America
PH The Order of Patrons of Husbandry (The Grange)
PM Patriarchs Militant (Independent Order of Odd Fellows)
POSA Patriotic Order of the Sons of America
RA Royal Academy
RA Royal Arcanum
RAM Royal Arch Masons
RC Republican Club
RMOKHSJ The Religious and Military Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of
RSGF Royal Society of Good Fellows
RSM Royal and Select Masons
ROJ Royal Order of Jesters (Masonic)
RSTV Rite of St. Vaclara
RSTV Rite of St. Vita
RK Roman Knights
RTT Royal Templars of Temperance
SAR Sisters of the American Revolution
SAR Sons of the American Revolution
SBCL Saint Bonifazius Catholic Union
SBL Society B. Lafayette
SCV Sons of the Confederate Veterans
SofE Sons of England
SMAA Scandinavian Mutual Aid Association
SNA-AUM Shrine of North America
SR Scottish Rite (Masonic Order)
SofSt.G Sons of St. George
ST Sons of Temperance
ST.G SoNY St. George's Society of New York
SUVCW Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
SV Sons of Veterans of the United States of America
TCL Tall Ceders of Lebanon (Masonic)
TH Temple of Honor and Temperance-Independent Order of Odd Fellows
TPLF Temple of Honor and Temperance, IOOF
TROA The Retired Officer's Association
UAOD United Ancient Order of Druids
UCV United Confederate Veterans
UDC United Daughters of the Confederacy
UFL Union Fraternal League
UFM United Friends of Michigan
UOPF United Order of Pilgrim Fathers
VFW Veterans of Foreign Wars
WKSC White Knights of the Southern Cross (See KKK)
WOW Woodmen of the World
YMCA Young Men's Christian Association
YWCA Young Women's Christian Association

Initials after ancestors' names may provide useful information. The
following list includes initials you may come across when reading old wills
or other documents.

a.a.s. died in the year of his/her age (anno aetitis suae) ( 86 y/o died in
year 86)
d.s.p. died without issue (decessit sine prole legitima)
d.s.p.l. died without legitimate issue (decessit sine prole mascula
d.s.p.m.s. died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula
d.s.p.s died without surviving issue (decessit sine prole supersita)
d.unm died unmarried
d.v.p. died in the lifetime of his father (decessit vita patris)
d.v.m. died in the lifetime of his mother (decessit vita matris)
Et al and others (et alia)
Inst present month (instans)
Liber book or volume
Nepos grandson
Nunc Nuncapative will, an oral will, written by a witness
Ob he/she died (obit)
Rel. or Relict widow or widower (relicta/relictus)
Res. or Residue widow or widower
Sic so or thus, exact copy as written
Testes witnesses
Ult late (ultimo)
Ux or vs wife (uxor)
Viz namely (videlicet)