African Symbols

African symbols - Adinkra

Adinkra is visual symbols that represent aphorisms or concepts through their philosophical and historical significance. Adinkra symbols were initially carved printed on stools (for ritual and domestic use), or cloth which royals wore to essential ceremonies and events. Nowadays, African symbols (Adinkra) are used extensively in logos, fabrics, and pottery. These symbols are also used in walls and various architectural features.

The African symbols mainly have a decorative function and signify objects that evocative and convey traditional African wisdom, aspects of Africans life, or the environment. Hence, there are multiple and diverse African symbols with distinct meanings and are often linked with proverbs.

Knowing that the Gyaman people of Ghana and la Côte d'Ivoire are the initial people with whom the symbols have originated, through time, these symbols assumed global importance and are now found in clothes, logos, furniture, earthenware pots, sculpture, and many others. Besides, these African symbols symbolize the richness of Akan culture and also serve as a shorthand as a communication form for profound truths in a visual way.

Gye Nyame

Gye Nyame is an African symbol meaning "except God." It is the most popular Adinkra symbol and expresses the Akans people's deep faith in the Supreme Being, called by various titles and names like Onyame, Twereduampɔn, Onyankopɔn, etc.

The African expression "Gye Nyame" can be used in multiple ways. For instance, it may signal the necessity of God's intervention in hard times and situations, which transcends man's ability to resolve. The symbol can also be used to reveal the relative greatness of an entity.


Sankofa means "return and get it." It is the symbol conveying the message of the importance of learning from the past. There are two different Sankofa symbol designs. The more famous one is the bird with the contorted neck, while the second symbol looks like the conventional symbol for the heart sign. The second Sankofa sign is an asymmetrical vertical axis, with each half spotting two spirals. These spirals represent the idea of going around and ending up at a point-presumably the source.


Adinkrahene symbol means "King of the Adinkra symbols." It is a symbol of authority, charisma, and leadership. The symbol is the inspiration for the design of the other characters. The sign consists of three concentric circles. Its abstract form connotes the importance of concepts and ideas, which are the essence of Adinkra, visual representations of Akan philosophy concepts.


Dweninmmen symbol means "the horns of a ram," which signifies strength (in mind, soul, and body), wisdom, humility, and learning. Rams are strong, defense, fierce, and can be even intimidating. For Africans, humility is a cherished virtue, while modesty in lifestyle and dress is upheld. For example, the adinkra symbol Owuo Atwedee is one of such signs. The message of this African symbol says that everyone will climb the ladder of death. The character is a warning that powerful and robust though one may be, and death is inevitable.

Funtumfunefu Denkyemfunefu

Funtumfunefu Denkyemfunefu symbol notates two mythical crocodiles with one shared stomach. It is a symbol of unity in diversity, giving sharing, and a common destiny. The proverb from which the sign is derived is known that Funtumfunafu and Denkyemfunafu shared a stomach, but when they got something (probably food), they strived over it, the sweetness of the food felt as it passed via the throat.

Odo Nnyew Fie Kwan

Odo Nnyew Fie Kwan's symbol means "Love does not lose its way home. Those led by love always end up in the right place". For the Akans people, love has a central theme in all relationships in its multiple colors and shades. Without love, Africans believe that relationships can hardly survive. Hence, being a polygamous society, the Akans people celebrate and recognize erotic love between men and women.


Aya symbol means "fern." It is a symbol of independence, endurance, hardiness, resourcefulness, and defiance against difficulties.

Ananse Ntentan

Many sources spell the name "intention" as "ntontan." Ananse is the famous spider in Akan folktales known for its cunning. However, the spider is respected for its creativity in weaving a web capable of trapping prey. The spider's web is also known for its strength. Indeed, a string of the spider's web is famous for being healthier, more versatile than steel of the same thickness.

How to use and type African symbol code?

  • If your keyboard contains separate NumPad, you should be sure that it is enabled. If it is not, press the Num Lock key to activate it then press hold down the Alt key on the left side. Type the number that represents that character or the symbol you want to insert and then release the insert key.
  • For example, for the greek letter omega Ω press and hold Alt and the type 0234 and then release.
  • There is another method that works only for word documents. In this method, you should type the characters first then press Alt and X. For example ( 0234 + Alt + X for greek letter omega ).
  • If you have a keyboard that doesn't have NumPad here is what will work for you. Find the Function key ( FN ) then presses and hold the function key while holding press and release Num LK key; then release FN key. This method will activate the numeric keypad in your laptop.
  • Then do the same steps as in the previous example.
  • Notice that in IBM code you don't use 0 (Alt + 255 ) before the code which is different from the windows generator that requires to add 0 (Alt + 0255 ) before the code.

Something doesn't work?

  • The Num lock should always be enabled. If it is disabled when you are attempting an alt code, it may cause errors or unexpected results in some applications. For example, Alt+4 could be interpreted as Alt +, ← which causes the browser to go back if the Num lock is disabled.
  • If your laptop keyboard doesn't have a separate NumPad, you should hold FN button with Alt button while typing the code.
  • This method does not work for Linux system, but it is possible to use Unicode.

Other Miscellaneous Symbols

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