Rope & Anchor Symbolism

Written by maggie craig
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Rope & Anchor Symbolism
The naval symbol of a rope & anchor has been used for at least 600 years. (anchor image by Maria Bell from

The rope and anchor is a symbol which has been used by the U.S. and other navies for centuries. It's seen on crests and insignia, documents and uniforms, particularly cap badges and the metallic buttons of naval officers' jackets.

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The first recorded use of rope & anchor symbolism was by the Lord High Admiral of Scotland in 1402. The symbol was subsequently adopted by the English Navy which, after the union of Scotland and England, became the British, Royal Navy.

The U.S. Navy states: "The fouled anchor (rope- or chain-entwined) so prevalent in our Navy's designs and insignia is a symbol at least 500 years old that has its origins in the British traditions adopted by our naval service."

Rope & Anchor Symbolism
The Lord High Admiral of Scoland was the first person known to have used rope and anchor symbolism. (Scotland map image by Vladislav Gajic from


The symbol of an anchor with a rope (or chain) entwined around it is also known as the fouled or foul anchor, an anchor tangled up in this way being very difficult to raise. The U.S. Navy believes that, despite this negative association, the rope and anchor, both so identified with ships and seamanship, were also used as a joint symbol simply because they make a very decorative image.

An anchor entwined in rope or chain is also known as a fouled or foul anchor.
An anchor entwined in rope or chain is also known as a fouled or foul anchor. (anchor and chain image by jimcox40 from


The anchor as a symbol of real and spiritual commitment and steadfastness goes back at least to Biblical times. As Hebrews 6:19 reads: "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast."

The anchor as a symbol of Christian belief and commitment is also reflected in the great 19th century hymn "Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?"

Rope & Anchor Symbolism
The Bible cites the anchor as a symbol of Christian steadfastness and belief. (holy bible image by leafy from

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