Those Mysterious Astrological Symbols, Explained

Learning about your Zodiac sign should come with a decoding key. Sure, your sign's planetary ruler and your animal symbols are easy to commit to memory right away, but what about those odd pictographs that frequently appear alongside (or in place of) your sign's name?

Known as astrological glyphs, these symbols have been around for centuries and are essential to the system of astrology. Not only are there glyphs for every sign of Zodiac, but there are ones for planets, asteroids, and astrological angles, too.

Astrological glyphs are a system of shorthand to denote the signs without having to write them out. So, you're most likely to see them when brevity is a priority, whether you're looking at your emoji keyboard or natal-chart software.

They've changed and evolved over time, but keeping things succinct has always been the point. (For the record, whether they should be standardized is an ongoing discussion among astrologers.) The earliest astrological glyphs date back to Europe in the middle ages. Prior to that, the signs' names were usually written out in full.

Of course, each signs' symbol and glyph varies depending on the astrological system that you follow. For our purposes here, we're going to stick to the set of glyphs you encounter as a reader of Western, or tropical, astrology.

Even if you only use your sign's glyph as a sort of astrological flash card, to remind yourself where it appears on the Wheel of the Zodiac, trust that it serves an important purpose. Much like your sign's ruling planet, ruling element, or representative symbol, your glyph can illuminate an aspect of your sign you previously overlooked.

Ahead, we take a closer look at the glyphs associated with each sign of the Zodiac.

illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Aries

Your glyph quite directly resembles the head of your representative symbol, the Ram. As any headstrong Aries will admit, this glyph specifically depicts your horns to better reflect your confrontational and resistant attitude.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Taurus

Much like Aries' glyph, the glyph used for Taurus is relatively straightforward and inspired by its animal symbol, depicting a bull's head and horns. And, also like Aries, putting your horns front and center may have been astrologers' abbreviated way of noting your tendency to be a tad stubborn.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Gemini

Yes, the sign of the Twins' is represented by a perfectly symmetrical glyph featuring two side-by-side shapes. And, as astrological YouTuber Grace Astrology pointed out in a video discussing the glyphs of the Zodiac, yours also bears a striking resemblance to the Roman numeral for two — your connection to pairs is inescapable, Gem.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Cancer

Unlike the glyphs for, say, Aries and Taurus, Cancer's glyph doesn't look exactly like its animal symbol, the Crab. Astrologer Annie Heese has written that it may have been meant to resemble breasts in an allusion to Cancer's maternal instincts and connections to the divine feminine.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Leo

Look closely at this glyph and you'll see the head and mane of a mighty lion. You carry yourself with unparalleled regality, Leo, and the emphasis placed on your (metaphorical) mane in your glyph reflects that fact.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Virgo

Your glyph reflects the belief that Virgo rules our intestines, with the final leg of the letter "M" curving in on itself to form a loop. The fact that this symbol closes in on itself is also suggestive of most Virgos' knack for introspection, analysis, and, at times, needless worrying. Resist the urge to turn your critical gaze on yourself, Virgo.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Libra

Even-keeled Libras will instantly recognize their symbol, the Scales of Justice, in their glyph. Although you're one of the few signs not represented by an animal, your symbol is nevertheless extremely indicative of your worldview, as you crave harmony and a clear sense of right and wrong in all matters.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Scorpio

Most obviously, we can see the tail of the Scorpion curving up at the end of this M-shaped glyph. But this is more than an allusion to your animal symbol. A scorpion's tail is its deadliest feature — highlighting it further emphasizes the value that Scorps place on protection, safety, and distance (between them and, well, anything that might threaten or annoy them).
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Sagittarius

It's only fitting that the glyph for the sign of the Archer looks like an arrow. But this arrow is distinctly Sagittarian in the far-off direction it's pointing. Sags are a curious bunch who love nothing more than running off to explore exotic locales. In other words, the arrow is your drive for adventure, leading you into the unknown.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Capricorn

We can see the duality of Capricorn's symbol, the Sea Goat, in its glyph: Where the left half looks like the head of a goat, the right looks like a tail that'd be right at home on a mermaid. This is one of the more intricate — and variable — glyphs of the Zodiac, which belies the complexity of Capricorns, simultaneously a cold and caring, practical and passionate sign.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Aquarius

You may be an air sign in personality and behavior, Aquarius, but your glyph is directly inspired by your symbol of the Water Bearer. It looks exactly like the water that would flow from said Bearer's vessel, which is suggestive of your free-wheeling communication style.
illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Pisces

The two lines of your glyph curve away from each other, Pisces, in the same way that the two fish that represent your sign appear to be swimming in opposite directions. Imaginative Pisces often feel like they're straddling two worlds — the real one and the ideal one they've dreamt up for themselves — thus their conflicted symbols.