1 a mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process, e.g. the letter or letters standing for a chemical element or a character in musical notation.
  •   a shape or sign used to represent something such as an organization, e.g. a red cross or a Star of David.
2 a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract:
the limousine was another symbol of his wealth and authority.

New Oxford American Dictionary, may 2021

According to this definition, what is the word for a personal symbol? Emblem? Badge? Insignia? I know the definitions of those words, but I wonder whether or not one's symbol falls into either. Is there a dedicated term for this?

By personal symbol, I mean a symbol meant to represent someone. Since I was a child, I have been designing personal symbols for myself; those someway represent me. That is what I am referring to.

  • 'Noble' families (and perhaps heads) have coats of arms. Logos are mainly for companies. May 12, 2021 at 15:08
  • 1
    Can you add examples of where and how this symbol might be used and for what purpose. You say you’ve designed many for yourself over the years, are they all used concurrently?
    – Jim
    May 12, 2021 at 15:18
  • 2
    There are lots of possible words: icon, logo, emblem, badge, symbol, insignia, sign, device, mark, motif, monogram, arms, spirit animal... Which is most appropriate depends on the symbol itself and the purpose for which it is used.
    – Stuart F
    May 12, 2021 at 16:20
  • I must be misunderstanding your question. The last definition of 'symbol', as you have listed it is a symbol in its metaphorical sense. It relates to what came to be called 'status symbols'. That is how the example is being used. The physical limousine has been purchased with the express purpose of showing other people how wealthy/successful/powerful the owner is. But it is not literally a symbol. But having coat of arms, or personal logo or ikon, that would really be a status symbol.
    – Tuffy
    May 12, 2021 at 18:58
  • @EdwinAshworth One of those is a coat of arms, even though I am not of noble descent; all others vary.
    – user423067
    May 20, 2021 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


a personal character

In the '90s, when Prince (i.e., Prince Rogers Nelson) lost the legal rights to his name to his record label, which had copyrighted it, he craftily changed his name to a personal character of his own design:

enter image description here

I say he did so "craftily" because by him self-designing it and thus it being entirely unique to him and by him himself† ascribing it no name or pronunciation, he roundaboutly kept his name without actually using it himself via an end run that led people in general to still call him "Prince" and led to the press, in order to avoid lawsuits without having to add a new character to all presses worldwide just for those occasions they wanted to refer to him, referring to him not with that symbol but as "the artist formerly known as Prince."

The above led to numerous petitions to have that personal character added to Unicode, which led to the following response by the Unicode Consortium, stating that it was not eligible for inclusion in Unicode, which:

"does not encode personal characters, nor does it encode logos."

While this legalese response appears to give the formal name for such a thing, that isn't what people in general have called it.


The word "symbol" is what people in general have called it. Even the above-mentioned article uses the word "symbol" to refer to it before providing the quote that came from the Unicode Consortium's ruling not to include the then artist formerly known as Prince's symbol in Unicode.

† "him himself" since others (i.e., fans) would later ascribe it a name, calling it the "love symbol" after the name of Prince's album Love Symbol, it being OK to call him Prince again since in 2000, he got his name back from his former label when the contract expired

  • This answers my question. Kudos to you. Thanks!
    – user423067
    May 20, 2021 at 21:14

There is this

avatar NOUN
2. An icon or figure representing a particular person in video games, internet forums, etc.
‘conversation is depicted in a balloon over the avatar's head’

For example, on this forum there is a little picture to the left of my user name at the bottom of my posts. I put in my own custom avatar, rather than using the default provided.

  • They're more than that. Those could serve as avatars, but that'd be a byproduct of a specific use.
    – user423067
    May 20, 2021 at 21:16

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