ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Shamrock Symbolism Explained

Updated on July 24, 2017

Shamrock Symbolism Explained

Shamrock Symbolism Explained
Shamrock Symbolism Explained

What Are the Hidden Meanings of the Shamrock?

The shamrock, the symbol of all things Irish, has a surprising history and many deep meanings. It's not just a little three-leaf plant! This article brings together all of the stories of the shamrock and the place it holds in Irish history. The symbolism of the shamrock is deeper than you may know!

Symbolism of the Shamrock -- Saint Patrick and the Spread of Christianity

Shamrock Symbolism Explained
Shamrock Symbolism Explained

Although some doubt this as true, several sources claim that the shamrock was used by St. Patrick, who helped spread Christianity throughout Ireland. The claim is that the three petals of the shamrock symbolize the three parts of the trinity -- Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But at least one source, the Oxford English Dictionary, refutes this claim, saying that the story dates back only to the 18th century. Perhaps it doesn't matter: the Irish have been associated with the shamrock, and vice versa, ever since.

Symbolism of the Shamrock -- Shamrock as a Symbol of the Holy Trinity

In addition to being a visible and attractive sign of summer and plenty, the shamrock has three leaves, which could be seen as corresponding to the Holy Trinity, part of the new and revolutionary idea of Christianity spread by Saint Patrick (among others). Soon the little plant, which was everywhere, came to symbolize the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It was hard for the anti-Christianity forces to stamp out every shamrock in Ireland, so the symbol literally grew and flourished.

Symbolism of the Shamrock -- The Triskelion

Ancient Celtic cultures used the three-sided theme as a powerful representation of several ideas, including nature, man, and spirit. The triskelion, a three-wheeled design, shows up frequently in their carvings, artwork, armor, and in the knot-work typical of their people. The long history of the three-wheeled design meant that the shape and image of the shamrock stirred up old and powerful shared memories among the Irish seeking independence.

Irish Blessing: May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight.

Why the Humble Little Shamrock?

The shamrock is a kind of clover that grows in abundance throughout Ireland. Cows depend on the clover for food, and in turn the people depend on the cows for dairy and meat. When the clover grew thick, the farmers and workers of Ireland knew that they would have food to get through the winter. As a result, saying someone is "in the clover" means they are wealthy or having good fortune.

In the Clover!

Shamrock Symbolism Explained
Shamrock Symbolism Explained

Shamrock Symbolism -- The Shamrock as Rebellion

In the 18th century, Irish regiments in the English army would sometimes wear the shamrock as a subtle symbol of Irish independence. Naturally this was frowned upon by their English leaders, forcing the Irish troops to adapt the shamrock in a small cross design that they wore on their uniforms. Some sources suggest that this action led to the association of the cross with the shamrock.

The Four-Leaf Clover (and Beyond!)

Once in a while a clover will grow to have four leaves instead of three -- these are rare enough to be considered good luck charms, and the phrase "four-leaf clover" has shown up in popular culture for many years. And once in a long long while, a clover with many more leaves is found -- clovers can also have five, six, or more leaves. The most leaves ever? Believe it or not, a clover with 56 leaves was found, beating the previous record of 21 leaves, set by a clover hunter who had made a habit of finding multiple-leaf clovers. In addition, some associate the four leaves with a kind of amplified Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Humanity.


Shamrock Symbolism -- Shamrocks and Dreams

For those who find deeper meanings in dreams, the shamrock image occurring in the dream state can have specific meanings. Some connection claimed for shamrock images in dreams include financial growth, good health and achievement. The green color of the shamrock has also been associated throughout Western culture, especially in literature, where it often is used to denote wealth, progress, or "go."

Erin Go Bragh -- What Does it Mean?

Celtic and Shamrock Symbolism Explained
Celtic and Shamrock Symbolism Explained

According to sources, the earlier version of this saying is the Gaelic phrase "ire go Brch." "Go Brach" basically means to go back to, or stay in a place. "Erin" is a derivative of Eire, which in turn is the basis for "Ireland." So when you use the phrase "Erin Go Bragh" you are basically saying "may we go back to, or stay in, Ireland."

Symbolism of the Shamrock -- Scientific Classification of the Shamrock

The shamrock plant is a kind of clover, which itself is classed in the genus of "Trefoils," a Latin name based in the prefix "tre" or "three." The three-leaf structure of most of these plants is the basis for the name. The genus is found around the world in nearly every habitat, and in this way is one of the most successful groups of plants in the world. The shamrock is essentially a clover, and may be considered to include more than just one species or variety. In Ireland, clover is especially common and forms the basis of many food webs, including serving as the food plant for many insects, especially Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).

Saint Patrick: If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, though they may despise me.

Did You Know?

The shamrock is registered as a trademark by the Government of Ireland.

Shamrock Symbolism -- The Modern Image

Shamrocks are used as symbols of all things Irish in Ireland itself, as well as throughout the world. For example, shamrocks are used by Irish rugby teams, as well as political organizations such as the IDA of Ireland. Of course most people are familiar with the Boston Celtics basketball team. The Irish rock band Flogging Molly makes the shamrock a part of their logo as well.

Liberace Plays "Four Leaf Clover"!

Time for a Quick Poll? - Represent Your Heritage!

Do You Have Irish Blood?

See results


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)