Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An ancient cosmic or religious symbol formed by a Greek cross with the ends of the arms bent at right angles in either a clockwise or a counterclockwise direction.
  • n. Such a symbol with a clockwise bend to the arms, used as the emblem of the Nazi party and of the German state under Adolf Hitler, officially adopted in 1935.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A cross with arms of equal length all bent halfway along at a 90° angle to the right or to the left, used as a religious symbol by various ancient and modern civilizations, and adopted more recently (with arms angled to the right) as a symbol of Nazism and fascism.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A symbol or ornament in the form of a Greek cross with the ends of the arms at right angles all in the same direction, and each prolonged to the height of the parallel arm of the cross. A great many modified forms exist, ogee and volute as well as rectilinear, while various decorative designs, as Greek fret or meander, are derived from or closely associated with it. The swastika is found in remains from the Bronze Age in various parts of Europe, esp. at Hissarlik (Troy), and was in frequent use as late as the 10th century. It is found in ancient Persia, in India, where both Jains and Buddhists used (or still use) it as religious symbol, in China and Japan, and among Indian tribes of North, Central, and South America. It is usually thought to be a charm, talisman, or religious token, esp. a sign of good luck or benediction. Max MüLler distinguished from the swastika, with arms prolonged to the right, the suavastika, with arms prolonged to the left, but this distinction is not commonly recognized. Other names for the swastika are fylfot and gammadion.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as fylfot. Compare crux ansata (under crux), and gammadion.
  • n. In the swastika proper the angles open to the right. In India, where the swastika has been most commonly used, and has been especially appropriated by several Buddhist sects, it is the symbol of general well-being, and may be applied to the sources of well-being, as the sun, the female generative principle, and fire. Its resemblance to certain primitive machines used to create fire make it probable that this is the origin of the symbol. The swastika is found in Tibet, China, Japan, and wherever Buddhism has gone in the Orient. It is found infrequently, if at all, in the remains of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, or Assyria. It is found through-out Europe from the earliest times until about the middle of the medieval period, possibly brought in by the Aryan migrations. In England and Scandinavia it takes the name ‘fylfot’ and in France, ‘gammadion.’ The use of the swastika was common during Mycenæan civilization in Greece, vast numbers having been found by Schliemann in the excavations at Hissarlik (the sup-posed site of ancient Troy). The appearance of the swastika among the aboriginal tribes of America strengthens the theory of their Asiatic origin.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the official emblem of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich; a cross with the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction

Etymologies

Sanskrit svastikaḥ, sign of good luck, swastika, from svasti, well-being.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Sanskrit स्वस्तिक (svástika), from सु (sú, "good, well") + अस्ति (ásti-), a verbal abstract of the root of the verb "to be", svasti thus meaning "well-being" — and the diminutive suffix  (-ka); hence "little thing associated with well-being", corresponding roughly to "lucky charm". First attestation in English in 1871, Sanskritism replacing Greek term gammadion. From 1932 specifically referring to the emblem of the Nazi party; German Hakenkreuz. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Yeah. I respect the intent, but it seems somewhat fruitless to me.

    March 6, 2009

  • I certainly get the idea of "taking back," but unfortunately it now has such a powerful and all-pervading connection with Nazi Germany that I don't see how it could happen. :-(

    March 6, 2009

  • A tattoo artist I met said the same thing--he has tattooed swastikas on people before, he said, but they were usually people who wanted to "take back" the symbol from the Nazis and use it with its earlier, peaceful meanings.

    I still wouldn't get one tattooed on me, but there you go.

    March 5, 2009

  • Indeed, vviddershins. I remember when I worked with rare books and was horrified to see swastikas decorating the Kipling volumes. That's when I learned that the author used the symbol, in pre-Nazi times, as a Hindu symbol for good fortune. More here.

    March 5, 2009

  • I think we all know what this word means to the modern word, but this word has a meaning that goes further back than almost any other holy symbol in the history of the world. It has been used by pagans, Hindu, Buddhist, The native people of the Americas long before the National Socialist Party used it. It represent the sun and the rotation of the sun, the seasons, the crops and that would make you think it probably became a symbol as early man starts to become an agrarian society. There is something very powerful about this symbol. It has an attraction. I mean not the tabu of symbol, but almost an unconscious pull like man images of the tarot.

    March 5, 2009

  • A town in Ontario, Canada.

    January 1, 2008