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Symbolism of Three Circles

Nurgle's symbol consists of three circles arranged in a triangular layout. There are a huge number of variations on this root theme, embellishing and decorating the core structure in endless ways, but the key symbol endures.

A relationship between Nurgle's symbol and sacred number is that there are seven ways in which you can pick elements from a group of three. For example with a group {A, B, C} the seven possibilties are: A, B, C, AB, AC, BC, ABC.

The symbol is not unique to Nurgle though; it's such a basic concept (which can be conveyed as simply as three dots) that it appears in a wide range of other roles as well. This page documents some of these for your edification and inspiration.

Similar Characters

Sumerian: kur
Sumerian: kur
Brahmi: i
Brahmi: i
Hebrew: segol
Hebrew: segol
Tamil: akh
Tamil: akh
therefore
therefore
because
because
asterism
asterism
Japanese maps: historic site
Japanese maps:
historic site
Japanese maps: tea plantation
Japanese maps:
tea plantation
N'Ko: gbakurunen
N'Ko: gbakurunen

Some of the special characters from unusual scripts may not render correctly on your browser if you do not have appropriate support for them. They are all reproduced as images above though, so that they are correctly visually represented.

Heraldic Shields

Assevillers coat of arms
Assevillers
Barca coat of arms
Barca
Bisante coat of arms
Bisante
Blasimon coat of arms
Blasimon
de Boulogne coat of arms
de Boulogne
Le Bourget-du-Lac coat of arms
Le Bourget-du-Lac
Bourgoing coat of arms
Bourgoing
Bousseviller coat of arms
Bousseviller
Chalon-sur-Saône coat of arms
Chalon-sur-Saône
Courléon coat of arms
Courléon
Courtenay coat of arms
Courtenay
Freytag coat of arms
Freytag
Goñi coat of arms
Goñi
d'Ivory coat of arms
d'Ivory
Koekelare coat of arms
Koekelare
Landenberg coat of arms
Landenberg
Leménil-Mitry coat of arms
Leménil-Mitry
Liancourt-Fosse coat of arms
Liancourt-Fosse
Mâcon coat of arms
Mâcon
Montrodat coat of arms
Montrodat
Neipperg coat of arms
Neipperg
Oberlauda coat of arms
Oberlauda
Oeschgen coat of arms
Oeschgen
Riches coat of arms
Riches
Riein coat of arms
Riein
Uzel coat of arms
Uzel
de Vassy coat of arms
de Vassy
Vemmenhög coat of arms
Vemmenhög

Some examples of coats of arms with three roundels (circles) or annulets (rings) in a triangle are shown above. There are others beyond these, and the symbol is used as a detail in the shields of many more.

The symbolism of heralrdy can often be obscure. One notable characteristic is that bezants (yellow circles) represent gold coins and thus are indicative of wealth.

Cultural References

caput mortuum
caput mortuum
pawnbroker
pawnbroker
Banner of Peace
Banner of Peace
Austria: blindness
Austria: blindness
Sweden: deafness
Sweden: deafness

Chemical Molecules

Pnictogen Hydrides (pyramidal)
ammonia
ammonia (NH3)
phosphine
phosphine (PH3)
arsine
arsine (AsH3)
stibine
stibine (SbH3)
bismuthine
bismuthine (BiH3)
Pnictogen Trihalides (pyramidal)
 nitrogen trifluoride
nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
nitrogen trichloride
nitrogen trichloride (NCl3)
nitrogen tribromide
nitrogen tribromide (NBr3)
nitrogen triiodide
nitrogen triiodide (NI3)
 
 phosphorus trifluoride
phosphorus trifluoride (PF3)
phosphorus trichloride
phosphorus trichloride (PCl3)
phosphorus tribromide
phosphorus tribromide (PBr3)
phosphorus triiodide
phosphorus triiodide (PI3)
 
 arsenic trifluoride
arsenic trifluoride (AsF3)
arsenic trichloride
arsenic trichloride (AsCl3)
arsenic tribromide
arsenic tribromide (AsBr3)
arsenic triiodide
arsenic triiodide (AsI3)
 
 antimony trifluoride
antimony trifluoride (SbF3)
antimony trichloride
antimony trichloride (SbCl3)
antimony tribromide
antimony tribromide (SbBr3)
antimony triiodide
antimony triiodide (SbI3)
 
Boranes and Boron Trihalides (planar)
borane
borane (BH3)
boron trifluoride
boron trifluoride (BF3)
boron trichloride
boron trichloride (BCl3)
boron tribromide
boron tribromide (BBr3)
boron triiodide
boron triiodide (BI3)
Chalcogen Trioxides (planar)
 sulphur trioxide
sulphur trioxide (SO3)
selenium trioxide
selenium trioxide (SeO3)
tellurium trioxide
tellurium trioxide (TeO3)
 
Aerogen Trioxides (pyramidal)
 xenon trioxide
xenon trioxide (XeO3)
radon trioxide
radon trioxide (RnO3)
 

There are several covalently-bonded inorganic molecules with a trigonal structure that is either pyramidal or planar, as listed above. Others (such as PoO3) may be possible, mostly through artificial means. In the table above, click on the image to be taken to the chemical's entry at the PubChem Project (where it exists), and click on the text to be taken to the relevant Wikipedia page.

Of the few homonuclear triatomic molecules, only triatomic hydrogen (H3) has an equilateral structure, and that is only theoretical (the molecule decomposes in under a millionth of a second).

Additionally, there are several ions with a trigonal structure, including: trihydrogen (H3+), carbonate (CO32-), nitrate (NO3-), chlorate (ClO3-), and sulphite (SO32-).

Beyond boron, heavier elements in the icosagen family form polymers or lattices in their hydride and trihalide compounds, and so are not in the scope of this list. Some other molecules with a central element bonded to three orbiting elements (like ClF3) are excluded because they are t-shaped, and thus do not exhibit order-3 rotational symmetry.

For a discussion on the possible real chemical compound underlying a fictional chemical weapon from the Warhammer 40,000 background, see: TP-III (Trimethyline-Phthaloxyic-Tertius).

Related Symbols

triple spiral
triple spiral
triskelion
triskelion
trefoil
trefoil
trefoil knot
trefoil knot
triquetra
triquetra
Borromean rings
Borromean rings
Hidari Gomon
Hidari Gomon
ionising radiation
ionising radiation
fallout shelter
fallout shelter
biohazard
biohazard
recycling
recycling
chemical weapon
chemical weapon

There are also many trifoliate plants (having leaves divided into three leaflets), including the entirety of the Trifolieae tribe.