The Mysterious World Of Rug Design and Motifs

Have you ever wondered what rug designs mean?

Believe it or not, rugs used to be a sort of communication tool in old ages.

Carpets and rugs are useful and decorative products of the textile industry. Handmade oriental rugs have their own characteristic features. For instance, knotting methods can help us to learn more about the origins of a rug’s design. However, it’s not the only factor to consider when it comes to reading rug symbols.

What is Rug Symbolism?

Symbolism is widely used in traditional rug weaving. Weavers used rug symbolism to communicate and convey ideas and information from one generation to other.

Professional rug experts can quickly identify whether a rug is Persian, Oriental, Moroccan, or Turkish. More interestingly, some rugs can provide information about when and where it was made.

What Do Rug Symbols mean?

Symbols on the rugs can mean many different things if you know how to read them. Before we get into the symbols, let’s focus on the colours. Colours are primary indicators for a rug design’s theme. Here are the meanings of colours used in rugs.

 What Do Colours Mean in Rug Design?

Traditional rug weavers used colours to convey their message. That’s why colours are more than a decorative detail for them. Here are the most common rug colour meanings you should know:

Green:  Green is one of the most significant colours that represents hope, spring, paradise and renewal. Moreover, it’s a holy colour as it is associated with the Prophet Mohammed. That’s why weavers used the colour green very carefully.

Red: The colour red represents happiness, cheerfulness, attraction, strength, and fate. Rug weavers used the colour red to emphasize the motifs they would like in their message.

Brown: The colour brown used to signify fertility.

Blue: The colour blue used to indicate wisdom, strength and self-mastery. The colour blue is also called indigo. In Anatolia, the plant indigo was utilized to produce the blue colour dye back then.

Yellow: Power, sun and glory notions interpreted to the yellow and gold tones in oriental rug design.

Orange: The colour orange gives a sense of loyalty, humility or piety to the design.

White:  White symbolizes purity of the soul, cleanliness and peace.

Black: Black is associated with destruction and vague concepts. The colour black was not the most popular colour for traditional rug weavers. They mostly used black colour to outline their motifs.

How To Read Rug Symbols?

Reading rug symbols is still a prestigious profession in the middle east countries. Each culture has developed its unique characteristic features. In this guide, we’ll specifically focus on the Turkish rug (kilim) motifs and their meanings in rug design.

Although technology advances every day, Turkish rug weavers are still loyal to their traditional weaving techniques. The main characteristic of a handmade Turkish rug is the way its knot.

You can see the particular knot known as Turkish knot in the photo below.

In traditional Turkish rug weaving, handmade rugs are created for various needs. For instance, rugs can be used as tent curtain, cradle, sofa cloth, wall carpet or prayer rug.

Usually, it takes months to complete a handmade rug. Rug weaving requires a strict skill set and patience. A finished handmade rug is one of the most valuable fortunes of a weaver which becomes a priceless inheritance from one generation to another. That’s why a handmade rug’s price increases as time go on.

Weavers include their emotions and thoughts during the creation process. Hence, rug makers use colours, symbols and motifs to convey their ideas. That’s how rug symbols and motifs are created. We can classify the motifs in 4 general subtitles to understand them better:

  1. Birth and reproduction motifs
  2. Motifs that represent life
  3. Death motifs
  4. Immortality and family motifs

A weaver starts with the birth and reproduction motifs, continues with the life motifs and finalize rug weaving with death motifs. You can observe every single detail of life when you look at the rug design.

The appearance of motifs is wholly related to communication. The rug motifs are created for mental impressions. Hence, a rug weaver never worries about aesthetic tastes.

Birth and Reproduction Motifs:

Hands on Hips (Eli belinde): This motif symbolizes motherhood and fertility.

Ram’s Horn (Koc Boynuzu): Ram’s horn signifies virility, strength and courage.

Fertility: This motif is used to explain the man and woman relationship. Barley, melon, grape and pomegranate are the other motifs used for fertility.

Human Motifs: These human motifs are used to remind the memories of a person. Some of the human motifs symbolize children. Rug weaver can express his or her feelings to have a child with these motifs.

Hairband: Anatolian rug weaver ladies express their desire to get married with this motif.Hairband

Earrings: Earrings are unchanging marriage gifts in Anatolia for ages. A woman who adds an earring motif to the rug, informs her family that she wants to get married.

Fetters: Fetters symbolize the dedication of lovers to each other.

Hope Chest: In the Anatolian culture hope chest is an essential wedding gift for ladies.

Star: Star is the symbol of happiness in Anatolian culture. Surprisingly it doesn’t represent the stars on the sky. Dragons, Phoenix and clouds are used to symbolize sky.

Pitrak: It’s a cottony plant that sticks to people’s clothes and animals’ fur. In Anatolian culture, there is a common belief that this plant is good for the evil eyes. Also, Pitrak motif is used to refer wealth.

Life Motifs:

Running Water: Water is one of the essential needs in life. This motif expresses the craving for water in dry areas.

Life Protection Motifs:


Hands, fingers and comb









Death Motifs:

Bird: Bird motifs have many different meanings in Anatolian society. While owl and raven are accepted as signs of evil, pigeon, philomel, and sparrow are signs of goodness and freedom. Since bird motifs have religious origins they also symbolize the desire to know the future. Further, bird motifs symbolize glory and strength.

Immortality and family motifs:

Life Tree: A tree is a typical figure in monotheistic religions. In Anatolia, it’s believed that this symbol can protect humans and objects.

Family: In Turkish culture, it’s pretty standard to see family motifs not only on rugs but also on gravestones and many other objects.


As you can see, rugs have their mysterious world full of symbols. It’s not easy to learn the handmade rug culture and design instantly, but hopefully, this guide is helpful for you to get started. Don’t forget to comment below which motif is your favourite and why.

If you need help with your handmade area rug cleaning, feel free to contact us to get your free & no-obligation quote!

Ready to Get Started?

Our professional team is ready to start whenever you are. Just click the button below to begin!