While surfing the internet (or even offline), you’ve probably come across a lot of symbols. Some of them are common, but for others, you’ve probably needed help identifying the symbol.
The internet has resources to help. We’ll show you how to find out what a symbol means using a variety of methods.
1. Visit Symbols.com
The aptly-named Symbols.com is a great place to start your search. Along with featured picks and categories on the homepage, you can use its symbol search engine to find what you’re looking for. Just type in query at the top, and you’ll see symbols that match it.
That’s great if you want to find a symbol by text (for example, looking up the symbol for “kosher”). But in many cases, you’ll see a symbol and wonder what its meaning is. Thankfully, the site offers other ways to identify a symbol.
In the bottom-left corner of the page, you’ll see the Graphical index section. This allows you to search for a symbol based on its characteristics. It provides a few simple dropdown boxes allowing you to specify whether the shape is open or closed, if it has colors, whether the lines are curved or straight, and similar.
Input as much information as you know, then click Search to look up symbols that match your criteria. If this doesn’t help you find what you’re looking for, you can use the Symbol categories to browse by groupings like Currency signs, Warning symbols, and others.
Failing that, you can search alphabetically using the letters at the top of the screen. If you’re not looking for anything in particular, the Random button can help you learn something new.
2. Draw a Symbol to Find Out Its Meaning
If you’re puzzled by something you saw offline, it makes more sense to find the symbol by a picture. You’ll find several sites that offer this functionality.
One of these is Shapecatcher. Simply draw the symbol you want to look up using your mouse or touchscreen and click the Recognize button. The service will return symbols that match your drawing.
If you don’t see a match, draw it again and give it another try. The site only uses free Unicode fonts, so it might not have every possible symbol. Try Mausr for a similar alternative if this one doesn’t work for you.
3. Search Symbols With Google
If you come across an unfamiliar icon while you’re browsing the web, you don’t have to worry about looking it up on a symbol identifier site. Simply run a symbol search with Google, and you should have your answer within seconds.
In Chrome, along with most other browsers, you can easily search Google for any text. Simply highlight it on the page, right-click, and choose Search Google for “[term]”. This will open a new tab with a Google search for the term. If your browser doesn’t have this for some reason, you can simply copy the symbol like you would any other text and paste it into Google.
Either way, Google should point you in the right direction to find the meaning of that symbol.
4. Browse a List of Symbols
Unicode (the standard for text encoding) supports a number of common symbols, which is how they can appear like standard text. While they don’t have dedicated keys on a standard keyboard, you can use ALT codes to enter symbols instead.
If you couldn’t find the symbol you’re looking for using any of the above methods, you might be able to find it by browsing through all the symbols Unicode supports. Have a look at Compart’s list of “other symbol” Unicode characters and you might find the one you’re interested in. If you prefer an alternative, check out the Unicode Character Table.
Of course, not all symbols are supported in Unicode. Road signs, religious symbols, and everyday consumer symbols aren’t part of it. You may need to dig into Wikipedia’s list of symbols page for those kinds of icons.
5. Learn Emoji Symbols
While you could argue they’re not technically symbols, emoji often pose a point of confusion for people. After all, there are hundreds of emoji to keep track of, plus design changes and new ones popping up all the time.
First, we recommend reviewing our emoji face meanings guide. This will get you up to speed on some of the most common ones.
If you still have questions about emoji symbols, have a look at Emojipedia. Here you can search for a specific emoji, browse by categories, and read up on emoji news. Each emoji’s page tells you not only what its official meaning is, but what it’s often used for.
6. Utilize a Stock Ticker Symbol Finder
We round out our discussion of discovering symbol meanings by mentioning financial symbols. They’re obviously different than the symbols mentioned above, but they’re still a type of symbol you may want to look up.
MarketWatch, one of our favorite financial sites for keeping up with the market, offers a handy symbol lookup tool. If you know the symbol you’re interested in, enter it to see details on that company. If you’re not sure what it is, enter a company name and you’ll see matches for it.
Once you’ve landed on a company’s page, you can see all kinds of data such as trends, news, and competitors.
Knowing What the Meaning of Any Symbol Is
Now you know where to turn whenever you come across an unfamiliar symbol. Whether it’s a quick Google search or drawing out something you saw offline, you don’t have to guess what these icons mean any longer.
Facebook has its own bundle of symbols that you might not understand. If that’s the case, take a peek at our guide to Facebook’s many symbols.