A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto,[1] and in computer usage an icon, is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance. A pictogram may also be used in subjects such as leisure, tourism, and geography.

Pictography is a form of writing which uses representational, pictorial drawings, similarly to cuneiform and, to some extent, hieroglyphic writing, which also uses drawings as phonetic letters or determinative rhymes. Some pictograms, such as Hazards pictograms, are elements of formal languages.

Pictograph has a rather different meaning in the field of prehistoric art, including recent art by traditional societies and then means art painted on rock surfaces, as opposed to petroglyphs; the latter are carved or incised. Such images may or may not be considered pictograms in the general sense.

US sign warning that a stop sign is ahead


Agawa Rock, panel VIII
Ojibwa pictographs on cliff-face at Agawa Rock, Lake Superior Provincial Park of a boat and Mishipeshu, an animal with horns, painted with red ochre

Early written symbols were based on pictographs (pictures which resemble what they signify) and ideograms (symbols which represent ideas). Ancient Sumerian, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations began to adapt such symbols to represent concepts, developing them into logographic writing systems. Pictographs are still in use as the main medium of written communication in some non-literate cultures in Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. Pictographs are often used as simple, pictorial, representational symbols by most contemporary cultures.

Signatures from the Past
Several prehistoric engravings can be found around La Silla Observatory.[2]

Pictographs can be considered an art form, or can be considered a written language and are designated as such in Pre-Columbian art, Native American art, Ancient Mesopotamia and Painting in the Americas before Colonization. One example of many is the Rock art of the Chumash people, part of the Native American history of California. In 2011, UNESCO's World Heritage List added "Petroglyph Complexes of the Mongolian Altai, Mongolia"[3] to celebrate the importance of the pictograms engraved in rocks.

Some scientists in the field of neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology, such as Prof. Dr. Mario Christian Meyer, are studying the symbolic meaning of indigenous pictograms and petroglyphs,[4] aiming to create new ways of communication between native people and modern scientists to safeguard and valorize their cultural diversity.[5]

Modern uses

An early modern example of the extensive use of pictographs may be seen in the map in the London suburban timetables of the London and North Eastern Railway, 1936-1947, designed by George Dow, in which a variety of pictographs was used to indicate facilities available at or near each station. Pictographs remain in common use today, serving as pictorial, representational signs, instructions, or statistical diagrams. Because of their graphical nature and fairly realistic style, they are widely used to indicate public toilets, or places such as airports and train stations. Because they are a concise way to communicate a concept to people who speak many different languages, pictograms have also been used extensively at the Olympics since 1964 Summer Olympics, and are redesigned for each set of games.[6][7][8]

Pictographic writing as a modernist poetic technique is credited to Ezra Pound, though French surrealists accurately credit the Pacific Northwest American Indians of Alaska who introduced writing, via totem poles, to North America.[9]

Contemporary artist Xu Bing created Book from the Ground, a universal language made up of pictograms collected from around the world. A Book from the Ground chat program has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally.

Pictograms are used in many areas of modern life for commodity purposes, often as a formal language (see the In mathematics section).

In mathematics

Titanic casualties
A compound pictogram showing the breakdown of the survivors and deaths of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic by class and age/gender.

In statistics, pictograms are charts in which icons represent numbers to make it more interesting and easier to understand. A key is often included to indicate what each icon represents. All icons must be of the same size, but a fraction of an icon can be used to show the respective fraction of that amount.[10]

For example, the following table:

Day Letters sent
Monday 10
Tuesday 17
Wednesday 29
Thursday 41
Friday 18

can be graphed as follows:

Key: one envelope = 10 letters

As the values are rounded to the nearest 5 letters, the second icon on Tuesday is the left half of the original.


Pictographs can often transcend languages in that they can communicate to speakers of a number of tongues and language families equally effectively, even if the languages and cultures are completely different. This is why road signs and similar pictographic material are often applied as global standards expected to be understood by nearly all.

A standard set of pictographs was defined in the international standard ISO 7001: Public Information Symbols. Other common sets of pictographs are the laundry symbols used on clothing tags and the chemical hazard symbols as standardized by the GHS system.

Pictograms have been popularized in use on the web and in software, better known as "icons" displayed on a computer screen in order to help user navigate a computer system or mobile device.

Image gallery


Native American Pictographs from the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park

National Park Service sample pictographs

Sample National Park Service pictographs


Pictograph from 1510 telling a story of coming of missionaries to Hispaniola

Piktogramm Schwimmer an der Muenchner Olympia Schwimmhalle

Olympic village pictogram at the 1972 Munich Olympics

Railway pictograms

British Rail passenger safety pictographs at the end of the platform at Meols railway station


The top traffic sign warns people of horses and riders.


Water, rabbit, deer pictographs on a replica of an Aztec Stone of the Sun

See also


  1. ^ Gove, Philip Babcock. (1993). Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged. Merriam-Webster Inc. ISBN 0-87779-201-1.
  2. ^ "Signatures from the Past". www.eso.org. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  3. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai". whc.unesco.org.
  4. ^ http://unesdoc.UNESCO.org/images/0006/000678/067843F.pdf
  5. ^ http://www.pisad.bio.br/artigos/amazonupclose_outoftheforest.pdf
  6. ^ "Visual Rhetoric - Olympic Pictograms".
  7. ^ "Olympic Pictograms: Design through History". 16 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Olympic Games Pictograms". 1stmuse.com.
  9. ^ Reed 2003, p. xix
  10. ^ "Understanding pictograms". www.bbc.co.uk.


  • Reed, Ishmael (2003). From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002, Ishmael Reed, ed. ISBN 1-56025-458-0.

External links

1994 Winter Olympics medal table

The 1994 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XVII Winter Olympics, were a winter multi-sport event held in Lillehammer, Norway, from February 12 to February 27, 1994. A total of 1,737 athletes representing 67 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) (+3 from 1992 Olympics) participated in 61 events (+4 from 1992), from 12 sports and disciplines (unchanged from 1992). These were the only Winter Olympics held two years after the prior Games, as opposed to the four year separation before and after. Continuing the break from tradition of 1992, the medals were primarily made of granite rather than metal; gold, silver, or bronze was used only on the border, the Olympic rings, and a pictogram of the sport for which the medal was awarded.Athletes from 22 countries won at least one medal, and athletes from 14 secured at least one gold medal. The host Norwegians led the overall medal count with 26, and were second in gold medals with 10. Russia, in its first Winter Olympics competing as a separate nation, led in gold medals with 11, and was third in overall medals with 23. The German team were second in overall medals with 24. Seven nations won their first Winter Olympic medals: Australia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Four of these, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, won their first Winter Olympic gold medals. The four first-time gold medalist nations and Belarus were all competing in their first Olympic Games as independent National Olympic Committees following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Italian cross-country skier Manuela Di Centa led all athletes with five medals, two gold, two silver, and one bronze. Russian cross-country skier Lyubov Yegorova, after winning five medals two years prior in Albertville won four medals in Lillehammer.

Check engine light

A malfunction indicator lamp (MIL), or check engine light, is a tell-tale that a computerized engine-management system uses to indicate a malfunction. Found on the instrument panel of most automobiles, it usually bears the legend check engine, service engine soon, maintenance required, or a pictogram of an engine—and when illuminated, it is typically an amber or red color.

The light generally has two stages: steady (indicating a minor fault) and flashing (indicating a severe fault). When the MIL is lit, the engine control unit stores a fault code related to the malfunction, which can be retrieved—although in many models this requires the use of a scan tool. This warning light can indicate almost anything from a loose gas cap to a serious knock in the engine.In the United States, specific functions are required of the MIL by EPA regulations.

Cycling at the 2018 Asian Games

The cycling competitions of the 2018 Asian Games were held at two venues in Subang and two venues in Jakarta from 20 August to 31 August 2018.Road bicycle racing was held around the road of Subang from 22 to 24 August 2018, while track cycling was contested at the Jakarta International Velodrome from 27 to 31 August 2018, and mountain biking was contested at Khe Bun Hill in Subang on from 20 to 21 August 2018, and BMX racing was contested at the Pulomas International BMX Center on 25 August 2018.

Electronic symbol

An electronic symbol is a pictogram used to represent various electrical and electronic devices or functions, such as wires, batteries, resistors, and transistors, in a schematic diagram of an electrical or electronic circuit. These symbols are largely standardized internationally today, but may vary from country to country, or engineering discipline, based on traditional conventions.

Equestrian at the 2018 Asian Games

Equestrian at the 2018 Asian Games was held at the Jakarta International Equestrian Park, Jakarta, Indonesia, from 20 to 30 August 2018.There were three equestrian disciplines: dressage, eventing and jumping. All three disciplines are further divided into individual and team contests for a total of six events.

Exit sign

An exit sign is a device in a public facility (such as a building, aircraft, or boat) denoting the location of the closest emergency exit in case of fire or other emergency. Most relevant codes (fire, building, health, or safety) require exit signs to be permanently lit.

Exit signs are designed to be absolutely unmistakable and understandable to anyone. In the past, this generally meant exit signs that show the word "EXIT" or the equivalent in the local language, but increasingly exit signs around the world are in pictogram form, with or without supplementary text.

GHS hazard pictograms

Hazard pictograms form part of the international Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Two sets of pictograms are included within the GHS: one for the labelling of containers and for workplace hazard warnings, and a second for use during the transport of dangerous goods. Either one or the other is chosen, depending on the target audience, but the two are not used together. The two sets of pictograms use the same symbols for the same hazards, although certain symbols are not required for transport pictograms. Transport pictograms come in wider variety of colors and may contain additional information such as a subcategory number.

Hazard pictograms are one of the key elements for the labelling of containers under the GHS, along with:

an identification of the product;

a signal word – either Danger or Warning – where necessary

hazard statements, indicating the nature and degree of the risks posed by the product

precautionary statements, indicating how the product should be handled to minimize risks to the user (as well as to other people and the general environment)

the identity of the supplier (who might be a manufacturer or importer)The GHS chemical hazard pictograms are intended to provide the basis for or to replace national systems of hazard pictograms. It has still to be implemented by the European Union (CLP regulation) in 2009.

The GHS transport pictograms are the same as those recommended in the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, widely implemented in national regulations such as the U.S. Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 5101–5128) and D.O.T. regulations at 49 C.F.R. 100–185.

Gender symbol

A gender symbol is a pictogram or glyph used to represent

either biological sex or sociological gender (a terminological distinction originating in 1950s sociology) in either biology, medicine, genealogy or selective breeding, or in sociology, gender politics, LGBT subculture and identity politics.

Pictograms used to indicate male and female public toilets became widely used beginning in the 1960s.The shape of the Mars symbol has been said to represent a shield and spear, and the shape of the Venus symbol a bronze mirror.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally agreed-upon standard managed by the United Nations that was set up to replace the assortment of hazardous material classification and labelling schemes previously used around the world.


- Core elements of the GHS include standardized hazard testing criteria, universal warning pictograms, and harmonized safety data sheets which provide users of dangerous goods with a host of information. The system acts as a complement to the UN Numbered system of regulated hazardous material transport. Implementation is managed through the UN Secretariat. Although adoption has taken time, as of 2017, the system has been enacted to significant extents in most major countries of the world. This includes the European Union, which has implemented the United Nations' GHS into EU law as the CLP Regulation, and United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

Hong Kong at the 2011 Asian Winter Games

Hong Kong will participate in the 2011 Asian Winter Games in Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan from January 30, 2011 to February 6, 2011. The nation will send 3 athletes Hong Kong sends 23 less athletes than it did in 2007, because the Ice hockey team will not compete.

How to Lie with Statistics

How to Lie with Statistics is a book written by Darrell Huff in 1954 presenting an introduction to statistics for the general reader. Not a statistician, Huff was a journalist who wrote many "how to" articles as a freelancer.

The book is a brief, breezy illustrated volume outlining errors when it comes to the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors may create incorrect conclusions.

In the 1960s and 1970s, it became a standard textbook introduction to the subject of statistics for many college students. It has become one of the best-selling statistics books in history, with over one and a half million copies sold in the English-language edition. It has also been widely translated.

Themes of the book include "Correlation does not imply causation" and "Using random sampling". It also shows how statistical graphs can be used to distort reality, for example by truncating the bottom of a line or bar chart, so that differences seem larger than they are, or by representing one-dimensional quantities on a pictogram by two- or three-dimensional objects to compare their sizes, so that the reader forgets that the images do not scale the same way the quantities do.

The original edition contained illustrations by artist Irving Geis. In a UK edition, these were replaced with cartoons by Mel Calman.

Icon design

Icon design is the process of designing a graphic symbol that represents some real, fantasy or abstract motive, entity or action. In the context of software applications, an icon often represents a program, a function, data or a collection of data on a computer system.


An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek ἰδέα idéa "idea" and γράφω gráphō "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.

Key of Solomon

The Key of Solomon (Latin: Clavicula Salomonis, Hebrew: Mafteah Shelomoh [מפתח שלמה]) is a pseudepigraphical grimoire (also known as a book of spells) attributed to King Solomon. It probably dates back to the 14th or 15th century Italian Renaissance. It presents a typical example of Renaissance magic.It is possible that the Key of Solomon inspired later works, particularly the 17th-century grimoire also known as Clavicula Salomonis Regis, Lesser Key of Solomon or Lemegeton, although there are many differences between the books.

Radical 24

Radical 24 meaning ten, complete, or perfect is one of 23 of the 214 Kangxi radicals that are composed of 2 strokes. "十" is two crossed lines. It was originally a vertical line, a pictogram of a needle (now 針), later supplemented by a dot in the center of the stroke which became a short cross-stroke and expanded to the current shape.

In the Kangxi Dictionary there are 55 characters (out of 40,000) to be found under this radical.

Regulatory sign

The term regulatory sign describes a range of signs that are used to indicate or reinforce traffic laws, regulations or requirements which apply either at all times or at specified times or places upon a street or highway, the disregard of which may constitute a violation, or signs in general that regulate public behavior in places open to the public.

Road signs in Botswana

Road signs in Botswana are based on the SADC-RTSM, a document designed to harmonise traffic signs in member states of the Southern Africa Development Community.

A white background signifies the sign is permanent, while a yellow background signifies that the sign is temporary. Warning signs are an upwards-pointing red triangle and black pictogram describing the danger or obstruction. Speed limit signs are a red circle with the limitation in black. Botswana drives on the left.

Solar symbol

A solar symbol is a symbol representing the Sun.

Common solar symbols include circles (with or without rays), crosses, and spirals.

In religious iconography, personifications of the Sun or solar attributes are indicated by means of a halo or a radiate crown.

When the systematic study of comparative mythology first became popular in the 19th century, scholarly opinion tended to over-interpret historical myths and iconography in terms of "solar symbolism".

This was especially the case with Max Müller and his followers beginning in the 1860s in the context of Indo-European studies. Many "solar symbols" claimed in the 19th century, such as the swastika, triskele, Sun cross, etc. have tended to be interpreted more conservatively in scholarship since the later 20th century.

Day Letters sent
Monday one envelope
Tuesday one envelope and a half
Wednesday three envelopes  
Thursday four envelopes   
Friday two envelopes 
Visualization of technical information
Image types
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