Do Cats Bring Good or Bad Luck? 5 Animals With Unexpected Symbolic Meanings

February 16, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Looking to surprise your new neighbor with a welcome gift that happens to have an animal decoration on it? Well, depending on where they’re from, you might be bewildered to find them less than impressed with your expression of hospitality. Here are five animals that are common symbols of something, but they may not mean what you think they mean.


1. Butterfly

(Blue butterfly via Shutterstock)

In most cultures, the butterfly is a symbol of beauty, the soul, resurrection, and transformation.

The soul part differs slightly across cultures. The word “butterfly” is Greek for “soul.” In Mexico and Asia, the butterfly seen in a household after a relative’s recent passing on is believed to contain the soul of the deceased.

Both Eastern and Western cultures identify with the butterfly’s physical transformation from ugly caterpillar to beautiful butterfly as representative of young girls’ blossoming as they come of age.

While all butterfly species have relatively short life spans (ranging from days to less than a year), to the Chinese, it’s a symbol of long life.

The butterfly, or rather, a pair of butterflies, symbolize love in Chinese culture. This is due to the well-known “Butterfly Lovers” story, featuring a Romeo-and-Juliet’esque star-crossed lovers who transform into butterflies after their deaths.

(Pair of butterflies via Shutterstock)