What Do These Common Symbols Mean?

Most of us will instantly recognise these symbols immediately, but we know little of how they came about and who thought of them. Thankfully, a collaboration between 500 Startups and Visual.ly breaks down these enigmatic user interface symbols that we see almost every day. Perhaps it’ll help you appreciate them more.

Click to enlarge.

Check out more about:

8 Comments - Write a Comment



Actually, the spinning beach ball predates OSX too. It was in use in earlier versions, only in black and white, and it was two black and two white quarters in alternating pattern. It got colorized in OSX, with the colors of a beach ball. Oddly, it seems that after it got colorized, and looked more like a beach ball, it became popular to call it the spinning pizza… ;-)



Way cool. I had no idea. I’ve got to reacquaint myself with the origin of “blue tooth.” I know I’ve heard it but I always considered it apocrypha.


Benjamin O

Actually, the german name for @ is “Klammeraffe”, which means not “monkey’s tail” but something like “clingy monkey”, or “monkey that clings (to something)”. Also, the german verb “to cling” is homonymous to the noun for (bracket), so it could also mean “bracket monkey”. However, it definitely refers to some sort of a complete monkey, not a part of it ;-)
Btw @Jackson Chung: the original source of this Infographic is indicated in the bottom right corner: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/08/computer-symbols-history/all
There is some more interesting stuff to be found in the comment section of that page.
In science, it’s considered best practice to cite the original source, not the source that cited it also.


Arie W

the bluetooth story is quite interesting :)


Mike T

At Apple, a few colleagues and I just call it the colour wheel…


Paul G

I’ve heard the pause symbol came from music’s Caesura symbol, which means a short break or pause in the music notation.


Tom S

Wow, so interesting….great morsels of information!




Your comment