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A Greek cross (all arms of equal length) above a saltire, a cross rotated by 45 degrees


A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars intersecting each other at a 90° angle, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run diagonally, the design is technically termed a saltire.

The cross is one of the most ancient human symbols, and is used by many religions, most notably Christianity. It is frequently a representation of the division of the world into four elements (or cardinal points), or alternately as the union of the concepts of divinity, the vertical line, and the world, the horizontal line (Koch, 1955).



It is not known when the first cross image was made; after circles, crosses are one of the first symbols drawn by children of all cultures. Some of the earliest images of crosses were found in the Central Asian steppes, and some were found in Altay. The cross in the old Altaic religion called Tengriism symbolizes the god Tengri; it wasn't an elongated "dagger" cross, instead resembling a plus sign (+).


The first Christian books from Armenia and Syria contained evidence that the cross originated with horsemen from the east, possibly referring to the first Turkic people. In old Armenian temples, some stylistic Turkic influences are found in cross symbols. Named animal, the symbol was found in the plans of temples, with the pillars from above looking like an additional cross.


As markings

Written crosses are used for many different purposes, particularly in mathematics.

  • The Roman numeral for ten is X.
  • In the Latin alphabet, the letter X and the miniscule form of T are crosses.
  • The Chinese character for ten is 十 (see Chinese numerals).
  • The dagger or obelus (†)
  • The addition (or plus) sign (+) and the multiplication (or times) sign (×).
  • If n≥1 is an integer, the numbers coprime to n, taken modulo n, form a group with multiplication as operation; it is written as (Z/nZ)× or Zn*.

A cross is often used as a check mark because it can be clearer, easier to create with an ordinary pen or pencil, and less obscuring of the text or image that is already present than a large dot. It also allows marking a position more accurately than a large dot.

A large cross through a text often means that it is wrong or should be considered deleted.


As emblems and symbols

Cross Name




Also known as the Key of the Nile, the Looped Tau Cross, and the Ansated Cross. It was an Ancient Egyptian symbol of life. Sometimes given a Latin name if it appears in specifically Christian contexts, such as the crux ansata ("handled cross").


Christian cross

Also known as the Latin cross or crux ordinaria. It is the most common symbol of Christianity, intended to represent the redeeming martyrdom of Jesus when he is crucified on the True Cross in the New Testament.

Coptic Cross

A small circle from which emanate four branches of equal length, with angled T shapes in the corner, cross-pieces outward, representing the nails used in Jesus' crucifixion.


Greek cross

Also known as the crux immissa quadrata. Has all branches of equal length.


High cross

Free-standing Celtic crosses in Britain and Ireland, very common in churches and graveyards.


Constantine's Labarum is also known as a Chrismon, or monogram of the name Jesus Christ. Several other forms of Chrismons exist.

Lorraine Cross

Used in heraldry. It is similar to a patriarchal cross, but usually has one bar near the bottom and one near the top, rather than having both near the top.

Papal Cross

Used in ecclesiastical heraldry.

Patriarchal cross

Similar to a Christian cross, but with an additional, smaller crossbar above the main one, and sometimes a short, slanted crosspiece near its foot.

Red Cross

Used as a symbol for medical care in most of the world, the Red Crescent being used in Islamic countries and the Magen David Adom in Israel.


Cross of Sacrifice

A Latin cross with a superimposed sword, blade down. It is a symbol used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the site of many war memorials.

Saint Andrew's Cross

Used in Scotland's national flag, it is also called the Saltire, the Boundary Cross (because it was used by the Romans as a barrier) and the crux decussata. Saint Andrew is believed to have suffered a martyr's death on such a cross, hence its name. The cross doesn't have to be at this particular angle to qualify as a saltire; the symbol X can also be considered a St. Andrew's Cross.

Saint Peter's Cross

An upside-down Latin cross, based on the story that Saint Peter was martyred by being crucified upside-down. Today it is often associated with anti-Christian or Satanic groups.


Skull and crossbones

Not a cross as such, but a saltire made of bones, with an overlaid skull. Traditionally used by Freemasons, and was the battle flag of the Knights Templar fleet, later pirates. It was actually relatively rarely used by pirates, each ship having its own design, often involving an hourglass.

Slavonic Cross

Used in the Russian Orthodox Church. The top line is said to represent the headboard, and the bottom, slanted line is thought to point up to Heaven and down to Hell. Some say that the upper side pointing to the right (according to Jesus' view from the Cross) indicates the repentant thief to whom Jesus promised Paradise, and the lower side pointing to the left indicates the thief who mocked Jesus. Others suggest that the bottom line represents the footrest, wrenched loose by Jesus' writhing in intense agony. The letters IC XC found at the end of the main arm of some Slavonic Crosses are a Christogram, representing the name of Jesus Christ.

Sun cross

Also known as the Sunwheel, solar cross or Odin's cross, because Odin's symbol in Norse mythology was a cross in a circle.



It is derived from the Pagan sunwheel, and originally represented the passing of the four seasons. It was used by early Christians as a disguised cross to avoid persecution, hence its name of Crux dissimulata. It is also known as the Crux gammata because it can be seen as made up of four upper-case Greek gamma letters. In modern times, it is most commonly associated with the Nazi party due to Nazi Germany's heavy use of the symbol.

Also known as the fylfot or fylfot cross, but when so named it is often depicted upright and with truncated limbs, usually so in heraldry.


Tau Cross

Also known as Saint Anthony's Cross, the Egyptian Cross and the crux commissa. It is shaped like the letter T. Francis of Assisi used it as his signature.

Thieves' Cross

Also known as the Furka Cross. The fork, shaped like the letter Y.

In heraldry

These crosses are ones used exclusively or primarily in heraldry, and do not necessarily have any special meanings commonly associated with them. Crosses that are used in heraldry but also commonly in other contexts are not listed here.

Cross name



The cross as heraldic "ordinary"

A simple heraldic cross (the default if there are no additional specifying words) has arms of roughly equal length, artistically proportioned to the particular shape of the shield, which extend to the edges of the shield. Illustrated is the blazon "Azure, a cross Or" (i.e. a yellow cross on a blue shield).

A cross which does not extend to the edges of the shield is humetty, in heraldic terminology.


Cross bottony

A cross with the ends of the arms bottony (or botonny), i.e. shaped like an architectural trefoil. It occurs counterchanged on the flag of Maryland.

Cross crosslet

A cross with the ends of each arm crossed.

Crusaders' cross

Also known as the Jerusalem cross. This cross was the symbol of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, which existed for almost two hundred years after the First Crusade. The four smaller crosses are said to symbolize either the four books of the Gospel or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread from Jerusalem. Alternately, all five crosses can symbolize the five wounds of Christ during the Passion. This symbol can be seen in the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven, and is also used in the flag of Georgia.

Cross flory

A cross with the ends of the arms flory (or fleury), i.e. having a shape somewhat like a fleur-de-lys.

Cross fourchee

One form of the heraldic cross fourchee (fourchée, fourchy) or cross fourche (meaning "forked").

Jerusalem cross

A variant of the Crusaders' cross with cross potent.

Maltese cross

With arms which narrow towards the center, and are indented at the ends. The "eight-pointed cross" (with no curved lines).

Cross moline

In a cross moline, the ends of the arms are split and curved back.

Cross patonce

A cross patonce is more or less intermediate between a cross pattée and a cross flory.

Cross pattée

A cross pattee (pattée, patty) has arms narrowing towards the centre, but with non-indented ends. See the cross pattée article for discussion of variant forms. See also Iron Cross.

Cross pommee

A cross pommee (pommée, pommy) has a circular knob at the end of each arm.

Cross potent

This cross has a crossbar at the end of each of its arms. "Potent" is an old word for a crutch, and is used in heraldic terminology to describe a T shape.


A cross with a square at the intersection point.

Cross triple parted and fretted

In heraldry, a "cross triple parted and fretted" (or "treble parted and fretted") is interlaced. Here, a version which is "Or on an Azure field" (yellow on blue) is shown.

Cross voided

A "cross voided throughout", also known as the Gammadia, can be seen as a Greek cross with its centre lines removed, or as composed of four angles (L shapes) separated by a thin space. The name "gammadia" refers to its being made up of four shapes similar to a capital Greek letter gamma; the word gammadion can also refer to a swastika.