Skull and crossbones (symbol) – Wikipedia

Poison warning sign

Skull and crossbones

In Unicode


See also U+2623 BIOHAZARD SIGN (HTML ☣)

A skull and crossbones is a symbol consisting of a human skull and two long bones crossed together under or behind the skull.[1] The design originated in the Late Middle Ages as a symbol of death and especially as a memento mori on tombstones.

In modern contexts, it is generally used as a hazard symbol that warns of danger, usually in regard to poisonous substances, such as deadly chemicals.[1]

Military use[edit]

The skull and bones are often used in military insignia, such as the coats of arms of regiments.[citation needed]

Symbol for poisonous substances[edit]

220px GHS pictogram skull.svg

In 1829, New York State required the labeling of all containers of poisonous substances.[2] The skull and crossbones symbol appears to have been used for that purpose since the 1850s. Previously a variety of motifs had been used, including the Danish « + + + » and drawings of skeletons.[citation needed]

In the 1870s poison manufacturers around the world began using bright cobalt bottles with a variety of raised bumps and designs (to enable easy recognition in the dark) to indicate poison, but by the 1880s the skull and cross bones had become ubiquitous, and the brightly coloured bottles lost their association.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b

    « Dictionary and Thesaurus ».

  2. ^ Griffenhagen, George B.; Bogard, Mary (19 November 1999). History of Drug Containers and Their Labels. Amer. Inst. History of Pharmacy. ISBN 9780931292262. Retrieved 19 November 2017 – via Google Books.