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Official Symbols of the United States

Sep 8th, 2023

Flowers, birds, mottos, animals, foods and more, here are some of the symbols that have come to represent the nation.

10 national symbols of the U.S.

National bird: bald eagle

The bald eagle was chosen as the national bird in 1782 because it was seen as a symbol of the newly-founded nation's strength and independence. As such, it’s a protected species and its populations are carefully monitored throughout the nation!

Flag: Flag of the United States

We’re all familiar with the flag — it’s everywhere! The current flag was first flown just after Hawaii gained statehood in 1960, and as of 2007 it’s been the longest flag design in use since 1776.

The stripes represent the original 13 colonies and the stars represent the current 50 states. The colors of the flag also have symbolic meanings: red represents valor and bravery, white represents purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

Seal: Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States is a complex symbol that is used by the federal government, so you’ve probably seen it on your official documents, most state capitals and plenty of historical statues.  

The symbol features an eagle, an olive branch and some arrows, as well as the Latin motto E pluribus unum ("Out of many, one"). The eagle represents strength and courage, the olive branch represents peace and the arrows represent war. The motto E pluribus unum is meant to reflect the diversity of the American people and the unity of the multicultural nation.

National mammal: American bison

The American bison (also known as the buffalo) is a large, hoofed mammal that is found in North America. It was chosen as the national mammal in 1978 because it is a reminder of the country's natural heritage, as the species once roamed the nation in massive herds before being systematically killed in the late 19th century. 

National anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"

The national anthem of the United States is "The Star-Spangled Banner" — a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 that celebrates the American flag and the country's victory over the British in the War of 1812. The poem was set to the tune of a British song and became the national anthem in 1931.

National motto: E pluribus unum "In God We Trust" 

The national motto of the United States is E pluribus unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one". It was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776 and has been used ever since!

National march: "The Stars and Stripes Forever"

The "The Stars and Stripes Forever" was composed by John Philip Sousa in 1896 and is the national march of the United States. A stirring piece of music that celebrates the flag and the country's military might, the march is often played at patriotic events and ceremonies. 

National floral emblem: rose

The rose is a symbol that has deep roots all over the world. It represents love, it represents war, it represents peace and, if you want to get into the nitty gritty, it can even send secret messages. 

Roses grow all over the United States, both in the wild and in landscaped gardens, so President Ronald Reagan made the rose the official floral emblem of the United States in 1986.

National tree: The Mighty Oak Tree

Thanks to efforts from The National Arbor Day Foundation in 2004, the mighty oak tree became the nation’s official tree with over 100,000 votes from the public!

Oath of allegiance: Pledge of Allegiance

The oath of allegiance is a pledge of loyalty to the United States of America and is often recited at naturalization ceremonies, schools, government ceremonies and more. It was written in 1917 as the post-Civil-War patriotism was becoming more popular and has been a staple ever since. 

Other state symbols

There are a lot of symbols in the United States, and with fifty states’ worth of trees, flowers, birds, animals and more that represent the people, places and ideas that make up the nation. While you’re here, check out the other official state symbols for California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Washington and Texas.

The more you know!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/LAWJR

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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