Christian fish symbol explained

What is its meaning and origin?

And what about the Darwin fish and the dead Darwin fish icons?

Christian fishCHRISTIANS HAVE USED THE FISH SYMBOL — also known as the ichthys (ixthus, icthus) symbol — since the first century.

The meaning of the word and symbol is very clever. The word ichthys means fish in Greek, but the letters are also the initials of five Greek words that mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” (Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter).

Ichthys symbolJesus Christ told His disciples in Matthew 4:19: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” As the early Christians followed Christ's command to follow Him and lead others to the Lord, the fish symbol became a natural extension of Christ's command and also a way to recognize and identify others who knew the symbol's meaning.

Ephesus ichthys

Above: Ancient Christian ichthys carved into marble in the ruins of Ephesus, Turkey.

Even in English today we have words derived from this Greek word for fish — such as ichthyology, the study of fishes; ichthyofauna, the fish of a certain region; ichthyoomy, the anatomy of fishes; ichthyography, a written work about fishes.

Similar to Greek letter alpha

The fish symbol is also similar in shape to the first letter of the Greek alphabet, alpha. In Revelation 22:13 Christ says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Christians using the fish symbol were acknowledging that Christ was Alpha, the first. He was around at the beginning of creation (John 1:1 — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”).

In the early days of Christianity, and at other times throughout history, Christians were persecuted or put to death for following their faith and Jesus Christ as their Savior. If they worshipped in secret places, a fish symbol outside the door was a way for other believers to know where they could worship and meet with other Christians.

Today, the fish symbol is used by Christians in business on their advertisements or signs. This simply identifies them to other Christians who usually feel comfortable dealing with other Christians.


The fish symbol also identifies the believer with baptism in water. And baptism by total immersion pictures Christ's death, burial and resurrection. The word ichthys is pronounced IKTH-us.

Pagan symbol?

Some Christians will not use the fish symbol because they say it has pagan origins. But, like the cross, Christians adapted the symbols to mean something completely different. Christians who criticize other Christians for using a cross or fish symbol to identify their faith are being extremely insensitive to other people's beliefs.

Most Christians have no idea about the origin of the fish and cross symbols, and to question their faith based on a totally different meaning and intent shows lack of understanding, perhaps even heartlessness, that surely can't be pleasing to God.

The Darwin fish

Darwin fish Some atheistic evolutionists have made a parody of the Christian fish symbol, ichthys, by drawing it to face in the opposite direction, and putting legs on it to represent the evolutionary myth that legless fish evolved into land creatures with legs.

Dead Darwin fish But creationists and some Intelligent Design adherents have come back with a parody on the Darwin fish logo. They have flipped the logo to create a “dead Darwin fish” symbol (right) — showing their belief that Darwinism, like Charles Darwin, is dead.

Photo of Ephesus icthys is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license.

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