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The Celtic Knot Meaning And The 8 Different Types Explained

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There is an immense number of ways in which the Celtic knot design can be used.

I have discussed this many times in my main article on Celtic Symbols.

Today I am going to break down the meaning of the Celtic Knot. Along with that, the various ways a Celtic knot can exist.

So if you are possibly looking for that next tattoo, art piece or clothing, you can make the best decision. 

But more importantly, you will learn about the great Celtic civilisation. You can find remnants of it everywhere you look. 

Not just in Ireland but around the world in many shapes and designs. The Celts genuinely hold a special place in history, and it is through this I am going to break down the Celtic Knot. 

I’ll break down different Celtic Knotwork meanings.

The Celtic Knot Meaning explained

Did you know there are over eight basic variations of the Celtic Knot!?

These were based on three and four-chord plaits. There is no shortage of books on the topic.

  • Including the Trinity knot, Celtic Love knot, Celtic Cross, Spiral Knot, Celtic Shield knot, Dara knot, Solomon’s knot and the Celtic Sailor’s knot.

Yes, there are that many variations of the Celtic knot. But if you are thinking about a Celtic Tattoo, why not have a good understanding of the meaning so you can wow your friends who ask, “Is that a Celtic knot?

But of course, we know it is a knot(see what I did there?) just in tattoos and in plenty of jewellery designs.

The most typical being rings, pendants and necklaces.

But what exactly is a Celtic knot?

Glad you asked! These knots are complete loops that have no start or finish. There is also plenty of Celtic knot patterns.

They could be said to represent eternity, whether this means loyalty, faith, friendship or love.

So if you were to create or draw a Celtic knot, you would have one start point and eventually finish back where you started, which symbolizes how life and eternity are interconnected.

The Celts were certainly a wise bunch.

  • You can find Celtic knots in the Book of Kells(seen below), 8th century St. Teilo Gospels and the Lindisfarne Gospels.

    The book of Kells written in Latin featuring a Celtic knot

    The book of Kells was written in Latin and stored safely in Dublin. Clear evidence of a Celtic Knot. It was created around 800AD.

  • It spread like wildfire after that. Heck, even in the Roman Empire, there is evidence of handicrafts with Celtic knots interwoven onto them.
  • Quickly followed up in the 3rd and 4th Centuries with floor patterns to architecture, even spreading into Islamic art and Byzantine architecture.

So yes, while that may look just like a pretty necklace or a leg tattoo, you are wearing a piece of history. 

Some historians even believe Celtic knots could date back as far as 500 B.C. However, when looking into this further, the evidence is vague to back up their claims.

But that being said, anything from B.C lacks a lot of proof. It was over 2000 years ago, after all! 

The different types of Celtic knots

Great, now you know a bit of the history behind the various types.

Now let’s break down the eight main types of Celtic knots and what they mean(or at least can be interpreted to mean.)

1. Trinity Celtic knot(Triquetra)

The first and probably the most popular of all Celtic Knots!

You will likely be most familiar with this one, even if you didn’t know it!

Triquetra power of three

 It appeared recently in modern-day movies such as Thor’s hammer(see below) and even that old TV series Charmed. 

The symbol on Thor's hammer is actually an ancient Celtic Symbol the Triquetra you can see it in this image.

Thor’s Hammer

The Triquetra is a Latin word meaning “triangular” or “three-cornered.”

In its purest form, the triquetra is three interconnected ovals — one pointing upward, the other two pointing down, to the left and right.

I actually wrote a more in-depth article on the Trinity Knot here. It is the most spoken about, so I felt it required additional research. 

What does it mean?

Meant initially as “triangle”, it was used to refer to various three-cornered shapes.

Sometimes, the traditional triquetra symbol is accompanied by a circle.

As previously mentioned in the Celtic tree of life, the Celts favoured that everything in this world came in threes.

For example:

  • Three stages of life: life, death, and rebirth
  • Three elements: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
  • Three domains: earth, sea and sky, past, present and future.

2. Celtic Spiral Knot

Spiral knot - three-sided knot which stands for water, fire and earth

Mesmerising, isn’t it?

Said to mean eternal life and is believed to be one of the oldest Celtic designs

This is another three-sided knot that stands for water, fire and earth, which are the forces of nature.

These designs feature a single continuous line that represents the oneness of spirit and unity.

In the Neolithic Age of Europe, it was common to see single and double spirals on temples and other European monuments.

The whirls of the spiral stand for continuous growth, while the gaps between the rings stand for the gaps between life, death, and rebirth.

Of course, it is down to your own interpretation and what it means to you with all of these symbols. 

3. Sailor’s Celtic knot

I must say I like this one. It just reminds me of the patterns that I have seen somewhere or designs. It might be strange to say, but we all have a favourite Celtic symbol, yours? Comment at the end and let me know. 

Sailor’s Knot celtic symbol

The theory behind this Celtic knot is that the two ropes intertwined were created by sailors. 

Either during long voyages or while waiting for their following passage. Said to be a means for remembering their loved ones. 

What I like about this knot is that while it is the simplest to make or draw, it is actually one of the strongest. A bond that cannot be broken. 

Sailor’s Knot celtic symbol celtic, celtic knot, celtic designs

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4. Dara knot 

I just recently included this on my main Celtic symbols article, and I just had to also speak about it here. 

The Dara Knot Celtic Symbol

A basic Dara Knot – The Celtic Symbol for Strength

Dara’s name comes from the word “doire,” which is the Irish word for “oak tree.”

Trees for the Celts connected the world of the spirits and the ancestors, living entities, and doorways into other worlds.

The most sacred tree of all was the Oaktree. The Dara knot is a modern creation, but it is designed with Celtic knot traditions in mind.

The intertwined lines have no beginning or end. This is known as the Celtic symbol for strength because of the analogy that we all have our own roots, and this symbol rises from the roots and has no end. Again they were a wise bunch. 

5. Shield knot

Moving from the previous Dara knot for strength onto the next one, which is the shield knot. 

The Shield knot, as the name suggests, is the Celtic symbol for protection. It was placed either on battlefields or close to sick people to ward off evil spirits. 

While there is a whole bunch of ways that you can design this Celtic knot, you will always find four distinct corners. The tight patterns depict an unbreakable barrier. 

four corners on the shield knot

You can clearly see this basic Shield knot along with the main four corners.

6. Celtic Cross

Well, this could be argued as the most popular Celtic knot. However, I still think that the Trinity Knot(Triquetra) surpasses it. 

Again with this Celtic symbol, I have created a more in-depth blog post about it here.

But I have included a summary below for you. You might also be interested in reading how one man actually planted this symbol. I explain the story in this blog post, but you can see the image below! Wow. 

Celtic Cross Grown In Donegal

Killea overlooking Inishowen, County Donegal, Ireland

In recent years the cross has been popularised in many Irish symbolic tattoos. The true origins of the Celtic cross are unknown, but there is plenty of theories and legends.

One popular theory is that the cross was introduced by St Patrick when he was converting the pagans in Ireland to Christianity.

It is a Celtic symbol of both culture and faith.

The cross has a few variations, but typically you will always be able to make out the cross symbol.

By exact definition, an Irish Cross or Celtic Cross has to have four semi-circles cut away at the four points where the horizontal and vertical beams meet.

7. Solomon’s knot

solomans knot

Well, we are coming closer to the end of this post. I hope you have been enjoying it so far, be sure to share this post if you can. 

Solomons knot is not so popular in the modern-day but is, in fact, one of the oldest symbols you can find. Even found in stone age carvings! Believed to represent the union of a man and the divine. This symbol can actually be found in nearly every single major civilization.

The reason behind the name Solomon is its frequent appearance in several ancient synagogues linked with King Solomon. 

Like many of the other Celtic knots, it has no beginning or end, and it makes for a symbol of eternal and immortality. While the design of two entwined figures makes the know a symbol of love. Just like in the Claddagh ring.

8. Celtic Love Knot, meaning

Ah, sure, why not finish the top 8 Celtic knots with some love? This design features interlocked knots and represent the love between two people. 

A Celtic knot The Celtic love knot resembles two interlocking hearts and usually sits within an oval shape.

It is believed that the Celts exchanged these knots in much the same way as we exchanged rings in the modern age. The Celtic love knot is one of the oldest and simplest designs.

This design features interlaced knots and represents the love between two people. It is believed that the Celts exchanged these knots in much the same way as we exchanged rings in the modern age. 

Conclusion of the Celtic knots and their meanings

The Celtic Knot Meaning And The 8 Different Types Explained

Well, now, I hope you have enjoyed this post. I am sure by now you know the meaning of all the different types of Celtic Knots. It certainly took me a long time to put it together, and of course, there will be many differences in opinions regarding any symbology. Just know that whatever symbol you choose to represent a Celtic knot, it is for you and not for anyone else. Well, unless a love knot, of course. 

Symbols are symbols and what you choose them to mean to you is what is important. 

I encourage you to share this article and subscribe to my weekly dose of Irish newsletter. 

Thank you very much for sticking around, and have a great day! 

Stephen Palmer 

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Zach Kelly

Friday 2nd of September 2022

This did help me a great deal with the Celtic Dragon sleeve I’m working on to allow me to work in the knots in a proper way and so it isn’t redundant.

Marlene E Gallis-Zimmerman

Saturday 26th of February 2022

I just wanted to say, in a shortened version, that if you are looking for a reason for the spread of these and other symbols, look to the Romans. While conquering the germanic tribes that the celts most likely came from, and while trying to conquer Britain, they took many dare I say the word, slaves. These people are probably responsible for bringing this type of symbolism with them, putting it into their work and daily life, then the Romans liked it and so on..sorry I watch a lot of recent archeological shows and the DNA proof is Changing history!

Irish Around The World

Sunday 27th of February 2022

How interesting! Yes, it certainly is incredible just how much these symbols have been part of history.

MaryAnn

Tuesday 1st of February 2022

Thank you, first of all. I am a Celtic freek and I have just begun to look into the meanings of the different knots. My favorite is the Celtic Spiral Knot ... I can't remember off hand of the actual name of it. I like it because I actually see all four elements in it. The Knot itself represents the wind or air, then the three arms of the symbol represent fire, earth and water. Its meaning is life, death eternity, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, etc ...

Irish Around The World

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Thank you for the comment. Yes once you get into Celtic history you realize they had it figured out way before we did.

E.Dale

Saturday 29th of January 2022

My wife and I currently wear the Sailors Knot as our wedding bands while I look for the Celtic Love Knot in ring form. Sad that this Knot is not used more in rings. Currently looking for this Knot in Irish Artisans web sites. Thanks again for educating people on Irish/Celtic Culture.

Irish Around The World

Tuesday 1st of February 2022

I am glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, the sailor knot is lovely, a great choice! I also wish they had added more of these knots in jewellery. Thanks for stopping by.

JoAnn Kvintus

Sunday 19th of December 2021

Thanks for your article, which was quite informative. However, I didn't see an explanation for one of the knots shown on the picture near the top (with the title of the article. This is the one that piqued my interest. It's second from the right margin, to the left of the triquetra in a circle. Is there an explanation to be had about that one? It's on a piece of jewelry I want to purchase for my daughter. Thanks so much.

P.S. Somehow I got from this page over to a page that had Olympic skater Jason Brown video. Fantastic! Thanks for that!

Irish Around The World

Sunday 19th of December 2021

Glad you found the blog 😊 not sure exactly which one you are referring to. Could you be more specific? 😎