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The Meanings of Tombstone Carvings



Initials of Fraternal Organizations
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
AUM Ancient Order of Mysteries - Masonic Order
BPOEW Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World
BPOE Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks
CAR Children of the American Revolution
CK of A Catholic Knights of America
COOF Catholic Order of Foresters
CTAS  Catholic Total Abstinence Society
CBKA Commander Benevolent Knights Association
CCTAS Crusader - Catholic Total Abstinence Society
CSA Confederate States Army
DAR Daughters of the American Revolution
EBA Emerald Beneficial Association
FAA Free and Accepted Americans
FOE Fraternal Order of Eagles
FOP Fraternal Order of Police
F & AM Free & Accepted Masons
GALSTPTR German American Legion of St. Peter
GAR Grand Army of the Republic
GLAUM Grand Lodge Ancient Order of Mysteries - Masonic Order
GUOOF Grand United Order of Odd Fellows
IHSV Red Cross of Constantine
IOI Independent Order of Immaculates
I.O.R.M. Improved Order of Red Men
IOF Independent Order of Foresters
IOOF Independent Order of Odd Fellows
IOJD International Order of Job's Daughters
IOKP Independent Order of Knights of Pythias
ISH Independent Sons of Honor
IORM Improved Order of Redmen
IWW Industrial Workers of the World
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
KG Knights of St. George
KGL Knight Grand Legion
KM Knights Militant
K of FM Knights of Father Matthew
K of H Knights of Honor
K of L Knights of Loyola
K M Knights of Malta (Masonic)
KMC Knights of the Mystic Chain
KPC Knights of Peter Claver
KSC Knights of St. Columbkille
K of P. Knights of Pythias
K of SJ Knights of St. John
KSTJ Knights of St. Joseph
KSL Knights of St. Lawrence
KSTM Knights of St. Martin
K of STP Knights of St. Patrick
KSTP Knights of St. Paul
KSTP Knights of St. Paul
KSTP Knights of St. Peter
KSTT Knights of St. Thomas
K of STW Knights of St. Wenceslas
KT Knights of Tabor
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
KT Knights Templar (Masonic)
LAOH Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians
LK of A Loyal Knights of America
LOM Loyal Order of Moose
MOLLUS Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
MRA Royal Arcanum
M.W.A. Modern Woodmen of America
NOK New Order of Knights (see KKK)
N.O.W. Neighbors of Woodcraft
OES Order of Eastern Star
OUAM Order of United American Mechanics
PM Patriarchs Millitant (Independent Order of Odd Fellows)
POSA Patriotic Order of the Sons of America
RMOKHSJ The Religious and Military Order of Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem
RA Royal Academy
RA Royal Arcanum
R.A.M. Royal Arch Masons
R.N.A. Royal Neighbors of America
RO-AUM Rosicrucian Order (Masonic)
RSTV Rite of St. Vaclara
RSTV Rite of St. Vita
RK Roman Knights
SAR Sons of the American Revolution
SBCL Saint Bonifazius Catholic Union
SBL Society B. Lafayette
S.F.W.C. Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle
SNA-AUM Shrine of North America (Masonic)
SR Scottish Rite (Masonic Order)
SV Sons of Veterans
TH Temple of Honor - Independent Order of Odd Fellows
UCV United Confederate Veterans
UDC United Daughters of the Confederacy
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
VFW Veterans of Foreign Wars
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


Anchor/Ships Hope or Seafaring profession
Arches Victory in Death, Being Rejoined in Heaven With Partner
Arrows Mortality
Beehive Domestic Virtues, Education, Faith, Abundance in the Promised Land , Piety
Bell Mourning
Bird Eternal Life, Winged Soul, Spirituality
Book The Devine Word or One's Accomplishments
Bouquets/Flowers Condolences, grief, sorrow
Broken Column Early Death, Grief, Loss of Head of Family
Broken Ring Family Circle Severed
Buds/Rosebud Morning of Life or Renewal of Life
Bugles Resurrection and the Military
Burning Flame Life or Resurrection
Butterfly Short-lived - Early Death, Resurrection
Candle being Snuffed Time, mortality
Caterpillar Life, Metamorphosis
Celtic Cross Faith and Eternity
Chain with Three Links Trinity, Faith, Odd Fellows
Cherub Angelic
Coffin, Father Time, Darts, Picks/Shovels Mortality
Column Noble Life
Conch Shell Wisdom, Reincarnation
Corn Ripe Old Age
Cross Emblem of Faith, Resurrection
Crossed Swords High-ranking military person
Crown Glory of Life After Death
Crown Upon Skull Triumph of Death
Cup or Chalice The Sacrament
Cypress Hope
Dolphin Resurrection, Salvation, Bearer of Souls Across Water to Heaven
Door Entrance to Heaven
Dove Innocence, Gentleness, Affection, Purity
Drapery or Pall Mourning or Mortality
Eagle Courage, Faith, Generosity, Contemplation, Military
Eye Humility
Female Figure Sorrow, Grief
Finger Pointing Downward Calling the Earth to Witness
Finger Pointing Upward Pathway to Heaven, Heavenly Reward
Fish Faith, Life, Spiritual Nourishment
Flag Military, Patriotism
Fleur De Lys Perfection, Light, Life, Royalty
Flower Life's Frailty, Immortality
Flying Birds Flight of the Soul, Rebirth
Frog Worldly Pleasure, Sin
Fruits Eternal plenty
Full-Blown Rose Prime of Life
Garland Victory in death
Grim Reaper Inevitability of Death
Gun Military Service
Hair Flowing Penitence
Hand of God Chopping Sudden Death
Hands Clasped Farewell, Hope of Meeting in Eternity
Handshakes Farewell
Harp Praise to the Maker, Hope
Heart Soul in Bliss, Love of Christ, Devotion, Sorrow, Joy, Mortality
Heart Pierced By Sword Virgin Mary, Christ, Repentance
Heart Flaming Religious Fervor
Helmet Military
Horns The Resurrection
Horseshoe Protection Against Evil
Hourglass Swiftness of Time, Temperance
Hourglass w/Wings of Time Time Flying/Short Life
IHS Eternity, Christian Symbol: "In His Service
Imps Mortality
ISIS Rebirth, The Virgin Mary
Ivy Friendship and Immortality
Lamb Innocence Especially on a Childs Grave, Resurrection
Laurel Fame, Victory, Triumph
Lily or Lily of Valley Emblem of Innocence and Purity
Lion Courage, Bravery, Strength
Lotus Purity, Resurrection, Perfect Beauty, Spiritual Revelation
Masonic Compass and Set Square Freemasons, Uprightness, Judgment
Memento Mori Symbol of Death and Reminder of Mortality
Menorah Devine Wisdom
Mistletoe Immortality
Moon Death, Rebirth, Victory, Sorrow of the Crucifixion
Morning Glory Beginning of Life
Mother and Child Charity, Love
Myrtle Undying Love, Peace
Naked Figure Truth, Purity, Innocence
Oak Leaves and Acorn Maturity, Ripe Old Age
Obelisk Rebirth, Connection Between Earth and Heaven
Olive Branch Peace, Forgiveness, Humanity
Open Book/ Bible Deceased Teacher, Minister, etc.  
Open Gates Afterlife, The Soul Entering Heaven
Orb Faith
Owl Wisdom, Solitude, A Warning of Impending Death
Pall Mortality, Mourning
Palm Branch Signifies Victory and Rejoicing
Pansy Remembrance, Meditation
Pick Death, Mortality
Poppy Eternal Sleep
Portals Passageway to eternal journey
Pyramid Resurrection, Eternal Life, Enlightenment, Spiritual Attainment
Rainbow Union, Fulfillment of the Promise of Resurrection
Ripened Fruit Nourishment of the Soul
Rod and Staff Comfort to the Bereaved
Rooster Awakening, Resurrection, Courage, Vigilance
Rope Circle Eternity
Roses Victory, Pride, Triumphant Love, Purity, Brevity of earthly existence
Scallop Shell Rebirth, Baptism, Resurrection, Life Everlasting, Pilgrimage of Life
Scarab Resurrection, Transcendence
Scepter Fortitude
Scythe Death, Cutting Life Short, The Final Harvest
Severed Branch Mortality
Shamrock Irish Descent, Holy Trinity
Shattered Urn Old Age
Sheaf of Wheat Ripe for Harvest, Divine Harvest, Fruitful Life
Shells Pilgrimage of Life
Shepherd's Crook Charity
Skeleton Death, Life's Brevity
Skull & Crossed Bones Death, Crucifixion
Skull Transitory Nature of Earthly Life, Penitence, Mortality
Sleeping Cherub Innocence (Usually on Childs Grave)
Smoke Vanity, Futility of Seeking Earthly Glory
Snail Laziness, Sin
Snake, Encircled Everlasting Life in Heaven
Spade Mortality, Death
Spider Web Human Frailty
Star Devine Guidance
Star of David Unity, Transformation
Stars and Stripes Around Eagle Eternal Vigilance, Liberty
Steps, 3 Tiered Faith, Hope and Charity
Sun disc, Winged Spirituality, Everlasting Life
Sun Rising Renewed Life, Resurrection
Sun Setting Death
Sun shining Everlasting Life
Swallow Motherhood, Spirit of Children, Consolation
Sword, Broken Life Cut Short
Sword, Inverted Relinquishment of Power, Victory
Sword, Sheathed Temperance
Sword Military
Swords, Crossed Life Lost in Battle
Tablets of the Decalogue Containing the Text From Exodus and Deuteronomy given to Moses on Mount Sinai as a Symbol of the Old Covenant
Tetragrammaton Four Hebrew Letters Y, H, W, H Spelling the True Name of God, Reminder of God's Omnipresence
Thistles Remembrance, Scottish Descent, Earthly Sorrow
Tombs Mortality
Torch Inverted Life Extinguished
Torch Immortality, Purification, Truth, Wisdom
Tree Stump w/Ivy Head of Family - Immortality
Tree Life, Knowledge, The Fall of Man Through sin
Tree Sprouting Life Everlasting
Tree Stump Life Interrupted
Tree Trunk Brevity of Life,  Number of Broken Branches Can Indicate Deceased Family Members buried at That Site
Tree Trunk Leaning Short Interrupted Life, Mourning
Triangle Holy Trinity
Triqueta (3 Interlocking Circles or Triangles Eternity, Trinity, Popular Motif on Celtic Crosses
Trumpeters Heralds of the Resurrection, Announcement of Soul's Entrance Into Heaven
Urn Immortality, Penitence, Death of the Body and It's Return to Dust in the Final Resting Place
Urn with /Wreath or Crepe Mourning
Urn with Blaze Undying Friendship
Violet Humility
Wheat Body of Christ
Wheel Circle of Life
Weeping Willow Emblem of Sorrow, Mourning, Grief
Willows Earthly Sorrow
Winged Effigies Flight of the Soul
Winged Hourglass Fleetness of Life, Mortality
Winged Skull Flight of the Soul From Mortal Man
Wreath Victory
Wreath of Roses Heavenly Joy and Bliss
Wreath on Skull Victory of Death over Life
Yin Yang Circle Harmony, Balance, Birth and Death