Difference Between Signs & Symbols

Sign vs Symbol

When you see the symbol $, or when you are required to multiply and are asked to do so by showing the sign X, you might not think much about it. Both symbols and signs represent something commonly known or perceived. For example, a pigeon is a universal symbol of peace, while a ring worn by men indicates that they are married or engaged. On the other hand, signs are often warning signs that alert people to potential dangers. In this article, we will discuss the differences between signs and symbols.


Signs can be informative, mandatory, warning, advisory, or prohibitory in nature. For example, when you see a traffic light turn red, you automatically stop driving or riding a motorcycle. In hospitals, there is a sign with a crossed-out burning cigarette inside a large circle, indicating that the hospital is a no-smoking zone. Similarly, a sign depicting a crossed-out horn on a school building shows that it is mandatory to maintain silence, and you must not honk the horn in the area. “No U-turn” and “sharp turn” signs on roads are classified as warning signs.


Symbols are signs that represent something else. For example, a cross is a symbol of Christianity worldwide, just as a plus sign has come to mean Red Cross or hospital in general. Even an illiterate person knows they can get medical services when they see this symbol. There are symbols for elements in chemistry, which are derived by abbreviating their names, such as O standing for Oxygen. Similarly, there are hundreds of symbols worldwide that represent something else and are easily recognizable.

Key Takeaways

  • Signs are informative, mandatory, warning, advisory, or prohibitory in nature, while symbols represent something else.
  • Signs have a language of their own, such as a figure of a woman outside a women’s restroom, while symbols are abstract or subjective and require interpretation.
  • Both signs and symbols are carriers of information, and people generally do not pay attention to the slight differences between them.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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