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Meaning of the Fleur-de-Lis Symbol

Updated on August 11, 2014
Fleur-de-lis back tattoo.
Fleur-de-lis back tattoo.

The Fleur-de-lis, or literally "flower of the lily", symbol can be found worldwide. Since it is used in so many ways and applications people often wonder what the true meaning is. As with many things in life there is no one "correct" interpretation of the Fleur-de-lis. There are however, several origins that are widely researched and accepted.

France & The French Monarchy

One of the earliest uses of the Fleur-de-lis was by the royal family of France, as is indicated by its French name. In his book France in the Middle Ages 987-1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc, historian Georges Duby says that the three leaves represent the three social classes of medieval society: those who worked, those who fought, and those who prayed. The Fleur-de-lis is still used today in France and areas that were settled by the French (Canada, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc.).

Mary holding Jesus in a Fleur-de-lis covered gown.
Mary holding Jesus in a Fleur-de-lis covered gown. | Source

Religious Symbolism

In relation to Christianity, the Fleur-de-lis represents purity and can be associated with the Virgin Mary. It is sometimes used in relation to Gabriel and the Annunciation, where he declares that Mary will conceive and give birth to Jesus. It is also said that the three petals and three sepals (the leaves below the petals) are a tribute to the trinity; that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Candency Marks
Candency Marks | Source

Heraldry

The Fleur-de-lis appears in many, many, family coat of arms; it may even be in yours. It was also used as a cadency mark to differentiate between the birth order of male heirs. Common cadence marks were: label (eldest son), crescent (second son), molet (third son), martlet (fourth son), annulet (fifth son), Fleur-de-lis (sixth son), rose (seventh son), cross moline (eighth son), and octofoil (ninth son). These marks would be added to the coat of arms to show the hierarchy of the family.

The ceiling of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France.
The ceiling of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France. | Source

Architecture

The Fleur-de-lis is often used as a decorative element in architecture. It is commonly seen in Gothic and Gothic revival styles, as well as churches and places associated with royalty. The symbol often appears atop fences, in stained glass mosaics, or in friezes and cornices.

Sports

Most famously the Fleur-de-lis has been the logo for the New Orleans Saints football team since 1967. It is also used by the Pacific Coast League baseball team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Major League Soccer team, Montreal Impact, and the Italian football team, ACF Fiorentina. Georges St. Pierre, a Canadian Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, has a Fleur-de-lis tattooed on his leg.

Scouts Emblem
Scouts Emblem | Source

Scouting

Today the Fleur-de-lis is widely recognized as a symbol relating to the Boy Scouts, although it is really used by many scouting organizations. It was first adopted from the compass rose. The flower points upward (the right direction), neither left or right, which lead backwards. The petals are meant to represent the Scout Promise; Duty to God and Country, Duty to Self, Duty to Others.

A Continuing Piece of History

The origins of the Fleur-de-lis may not be completely clear but it is still being used and honored to this day.

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      Susan Roberts 6 months ago

      Thanks for clarifying this. I first became aware of the symbol when reading a book about Joan of Arc and how she had the fleur-de-lis on her sword. To me she was a strong Christian woman led by God and this is when I fell in love with the symbol. So I got a fleur-de-lis symbol tattoo put on my left shoulder done in purple and lavender, which is very beautiful. People try to make it out to be Luciferian, but you can take any symbol and use or mean it for good or bad. Look at the Swastika that was a holy symbol to Hindu Indians and the American Indians. Hitler took it and made the symbol out to be refiled every time anyone looks at it now, instead of the holy symbol it was originally meant to be.

    • JasonLicerioPH profile image

      Jason Licerio 3 years ago from Philippines

      Clarity for unknown symbols you see everywhere. Thanks!

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      Ceusan Alina 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing!

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      Ken Kline 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      I learned allot. Have admire this and knew it to be French but didn't realize it also meant purity. Thank you for the history lesson.

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      bobby 3 years ago

      Thanks I'm from louisiana and I had a feeling that's it meant something good

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      floflo 3 years ago

      The gsp tattoo is for the quebec. Its the sign of the quebecer flag wich is where gsp is born

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      Kk 4 years ago

      Love this symbol

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      Southern Bell Ding A Ling Ding A Ling 4 years ago

      Good to know thanks. Keep up the info lots of sum fume out here. Lol

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      flora d lease 4 years ago

      I always knew I loved this symbol.

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      Hamid 5 years ago

      thanks for the info just wanted to the meaning of it be4 i get that tattooed

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 5 years ago from Southwest Florida

      I found your HUB to very interesting. I always wondered the origin. Thanks a lot for the knowledge.