Gravestones or headstones are stones placed over a grave, usually details of the name, year, date of birth, and death of the deceased. Earlier on, people used wooden crosses but were then replaced with gravestones which are much strong and permanent. Apart from the names, birth and death dates and years, these stones are also decorated with icons and symbols and help individuals trace their loved ones easily in the cemetery.

Symbols of gravestones and meanings

If you have ever walked in a cemetery and wondered what the different symbols in the gravestones mean, here are a few symbols and their meanings.

American flag

A gravestone with an American flag curved on it symbolises pride and courage and is usually placed in the grave of a military veteran.


This symbol was initially considered a safety symbol but adopted by Christians to symbolise steadfastness and hope. Moreover, the anchor symbolised seamanship and was used in a seaman grave. If the chain in the anchor is broken, this symbolises the end of life.


You will see some headstones with the mark of an angel, and this symbolises purity and spirituality. The angles are supposed to send and receive messages from God, acting as the middlemen between God and man. If the angel has two open wings, this symbolises movement from earth to heaven.


This is also common in most gravestones, symbolising the holy book, which is the bible. Sometimes, it represents an individual who is still learning, a scholar, a memory, a prayer, a writer, publisher or a bookseller.


This is popular with Christians and Jewish cemeteries and is used to represent peace, innocence and resurrection. When you see a dove ascending, it represents the departed soul being transported to heaven. If the dove is lying dead, it is a symbol of life that was taken prematurely.

In conclusion, headstones are important since they play different significant roles in society. Most importantly, these stones can help individuals trace their lineage and history. The symbols also make it easy to know the kind of person the deceased was and the respect accorded to them by the family.