20 Betrayal Symbols And Their Meanings

by Anna Christopher

Have you ever wondered about the symbols that personify betrayal? Yes, these symbols work as translators, converting complex human emotions into a language of obscure and often cryptic images. Join me as we explore to decode the thing that can strike the potent fear in the mightiest of hearts – the symbol of betrayal.

Brace yourself for a journey through culture, literature, and human emotion. We’ll pull back the curtain on the frighteningly beautiful complexity of the betrayal symbols — a symbol as old as humanity itself, laden with narratives from Greek mythology to modern-day cinema.

1. Serpent


The serpent has slithered into our collective psyche, literature, and mythology as a symbol of betrayal. This association dates back to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, where the serpent beguiles Eve into taking a bite of the forbidden fruit, opening the doors to deception and betrayal for the first time.

Serpentine imagery is ubiquitous in many cultures, with its winding form evoking feelings of betrayal and cunning. With its forked tongue, this slithering creature exemplifies the very nature of betrayal, as it strikes unexpectedly and draws its prey into a deadly embrace.

Serpents play a starring role in many ancient legends and modern narratives that centre around betrayal and intrigue. For instance, Medusa, the Greek gorgon whose gaze could turn a person to stone, is deceiving and treacherous. In more contemporary portrayals like Voldemort’s dark mark in the ‘Harry Potter series, the serpent retains its sinister aura that warns of betrayal in the shadows.

2. Apple


An apple is far more than just a crunchy and nutritious snack; it has been a symbol of betrayal since time immemorial. Stemming from the biblical tale of Adam and Eve, the humble apple has come to represent seduction, disobedience, and the harrowing consequences of succumbing to temptation.

In many cultural and artistic representations, the apple takes centre stage as an enticing yet treacherous lure that leads its possessors astray. Here, the fruit represents the irresistible beauty of desire that can trap a person in a web of deceit.

Personal failings and consequences are often metaphorically conveyed through the symbolism of a poisoned or rotten apple—a victim fallen prey to the enticing danger of deception and betrayal.

3. Judas’s Thirty Pieces of Silver

Judas's Thirty Pieces of Silver

When the weight of betrayal is measured in material value, no sum could ever seemingly suffice. Nevertheless, Judas Iscariot’s thirty pieces of silver earned for the ultimate, haunting act of betraying Jesus Christ to the Roman guards remains etched in history as a dark reminder of the grim alliance between greed and disloyalty.

More than just currency, these gleaming coins symbolize the calculated transaction that placed a price tag on faith and trust, rendering the most precious bond susceptible to the seductive pull of material gain.

In modern literature, art, and daily life, the image of thirty pieces of silver serves as a chilling reminder that, in the tug-of-war between loyalty and personal gain, the path of righteousness remains treacherous and winding.

4. Raven


Omens and enigma follow closely in the raven’s jet-black wings. This enigmatic bird occupies a fascinating space in mythology and literature, often serving as the harbinger of betrayal, sorrow, and imminent disaster.

In some Native American folklore, for example, the raven is seen as a trickster figure, while in Norse mythology, Odin’s two ravens symbolize memory and thought, flying around the world to gather information.

The raven’s dark and mysterious profile lends it a powerful presence in the narrative of betrayal, where the bird signals a storm on the horizon—a sudden and unexpected twist that leaves trust shattered and hearts broken.

5. Fog


Fog shrouds betrayal in a cloak of shadows, obscuring honesty and truth. This ephemeral weather phenomenon represents the murky depths of deception, leading one to navigate through the precarious terrain of uncertainty and unease.

In literature, an approaching fog often signals the onset of complication—whether it’s the cloudy haze that envelops Macbeth’s cursed heath in Shakespeare’s masterpiece or the dense, otherworldly mist that blankets Stephen King’s town in his chilling novella, ‘The Mist’.

The countless forms of fog—literal or metaphorical—serve as haunting reminders of the hidden perils that lie beneath the surface of trust, whether they are waiting in the dark corners of personal relationships or concealed within professional entanglements.

6. Storm


A brewing storm, with its looming black clouds, fiercely whistling winds and crashing rain, is a stark prelude to an impending betrayal—the storm brewing in the hearts of men and women who find themselves consumed by jealousy, resentment, or power.

In literary texts, theatrical productions, and films, the turbulent storm that might precede a betrayal scene often serves to heighten the anticipation and reinforce the gravity of the act.

As much as storms can instil a sense of foreboding and danger, they also stand as metaphors for the emotional turmoil experienced by those who suffer the consequences of betrayal. The storm mimics the human heart’s response—chaos unleashed, leaving behind devastation and despair.

7. Backstabbing


The heart-wrenching image of a knife being plunged into someone’s back—the horrifying moment of betrayal—is a universal symbol that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. The act of backstabbing evokes a visceral response, depicting the ultimate breach of trust between two individuals who once may have shared a close bond.

From the gory annals of history littered with infamous instances of backstabbing, such as the assassination of Julius Caesar, to the dramatic realms of literature and theatre where Brutus, Iago, and Lady Macbeth etch their cunning marks, the symbolism of backstabbing offers a poignant reflection of human vulnerability.

In the realm of personal experiences, the metaphorical knife that penetrates the flesh also pierces the soul, leaving a mark that’s etched not on the skin but deep within the heart.

8. Poison / Venom


A bitter undertone courses through the history of poison—a substance wielded in secrecy, a weapon ingrained with treachery and betrayal. In matters of both the heart and the state, poison occupies a dark and sinister position in human history, used to silence foes, eliminate threats and even murder loved ones.

The prevalence of poison in literature and theatre is abundant, from the ancient Greek tragedies, where Medea kills her rival with a poisoned robe, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the deadly mixture courses through the veins of an unsuspecting victim.

Whether plants with venomous bites, like belladonna or creatures that lurk in the shadows, ready to strike with lethal force, the language of poison and venom speaks to the unspoken—characters and acts hidden from view, conspiring to unleash the devastating strike of betrayal.

9. Dagger


The dagger, a symbol of treachery, conjures images of secrets whispered in the night and murderous plots unfolding beneath cloak and dagger. This short, sharp, and deadly weapon has earned a place in literature, art, and history as a harbinger of betrayal thanks to its dramatic allure and shadowy connotations.

We must look no further than Shakespeare’s Macbeth for a potent illustration of the dagger’s significance. The invisible dagger that appears before Macbeth’s eyes becomes the ultimate symbol of the dastardly act he is about to commit, cementing his reputation as the infamous traitor who would be king.

In our personal lives, a dagger may show itself as a symbol in dreams and subconscious ruminations, acting as a warning of imminent peril. This foreboding talisman may give us a glimpse into the hidden heart of darkness that lies dormant, waiting to rear its head.

10. Broken Trust

Broken Trust

The shattering of glass, the rending of fabric, the splintering of wood—each of these images represents the destruction of an object that once was whole and intact, functioning as poignant symbols of the devastating impact of betrayal.

Broken trust is an experience that is difficult to forget or to repair. Like a once-pristine mirror now shattered into countless, jagged shards, the bond between two individuals can seldom be restored to its original state after trust has been betrayed.

In literature and our everyday lives, the image of a broken object is a reminder of the fragility of human connections and the heartache that ensues when they are rent asunder.

11. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

The wolf in sheep’s clothing is an adept metaphor for deception and betrayal, depicting the cunning of the proverbial predator who hides its true nature beneath an innocent facade.

From Aesop’s fables of ancient Greece to the biblical reference to false prophets in the Gospel of Matthew, the wolf in sheep’s clothing holds enduring significance across times and cultures.

The metaphor reminds us to approach situations cautiously in everyday life, as seemingly harmless individuals may reveal themselves as treacherous adversaries.

12. Chameleon


With its notorious ability to transform itself to match its surroundings, the chameleon stands as an apt symbol for pretence and deception. This small, enigmatic creature offers an allegory for those capable of shifting their allegiances and hiding sinister intentions beneath a veneer of agreeability and charm.

As such, the chameleon has become a symbol of betrayal, highlighting the deception that is often inherent in the act. Particularly in literature, theatre, and films, the chameleon-like characters who blend into the background only to emerge as betraying figures are the stuff of nightmares.

On a personal level, the symbolism of the chameleon exposes the potential pitfalls of trust, leading to valuable lessons in navigating relationships and being wary of those who may be hiding their true nature.

13. Tarot Card (The Tower)

Tarot Card

The Tower, a card of the Major Arcana in a tarot deck, stands as a potent symbol of chaos, upheaval, and dramatic change—a dramatic harbinger of a shocking betrayal leading to a devastating downfall.

In Tarot readings, The Tower forewarns tumultuous change, which may manifest in the form of a betrayal or a sudden turn of events that drastically alters the landscape of one’s life.

When the Tower card appears, it often signals that it is time for self-reflection, introspection, and growth—a phase of life where one must face one’s demons and rebuild the foundation of trust that has been shattered.

14. A Kiss

A Kiss

A kiss—the very symbol of love and trust—can also signify the ultimate betrayal, as portrayed in the haunting story of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus with a betrayal sealed by a kiss.

In literature and the performing arts, an infidelity masked with an unexpected, passionate kiss can serve as an explosive turning point, unveiling the true depths of treachery and deceit.

Whether it’s the forbidden lover’s embrace or the ambush predator poised for the kill, the power of the kiss as a symbol of betrayal reminds us of the terrifying potential for the most tender of acts to become the most destructive.

15. Cloak


The heavy cloak of shadows and whispers, symbolic of secrecy and sinister intentions, is a narrative staple of intrigue and betrayal. The cloak is reminiscent of the clandestine figures who weave dark tales of conspiracy and deceit disguised by its folds away from the prying eyes of justice.

In literature, stage, and screen, the cloak has long been the attire of spies, assassins, and traitorous characters, with its dark symbolism underpinning the essential ingredient of disguise in the tale of betrayal.

The cloak’s concealed nature is a subtle reminder that somewhere on the periphery of our daily lives, whispers may be shared and daggers drawn, ready to stab through the fabric of trust that holds humanity together.

16. Scorpion


In fables and folklore, the scorpion is attributed with an air of inherent betrayal—a unique and enigmatic creature that embodies deception due to its lethal sting and formidable appearance.

With its roots in the ancient fable of The Scorpion and the Frog, the scorpion symbolizes the tragic inevitability of betrayal, rooted in the intrinsic nature of the betrayer.

On a broader scale, the scorpion’s symbolic influence extends to themes of revenge, death, and transformation—an ominous signifier of the perils that tread alongside trust and relationships.

17. Barcode


Coveted by modern society, the barcode—a seemingly benign, numerical identifier—bears symbolic resonance that extends beyond its primary function. As a signifier of industry and materialism, the barcode can signify losing one’s identity in the face of betrayal or manipulation.

With personal connections often strained and authenticity diminished, individuals may find themselves reduced to a mere commodity, stripped of their humanity and trust.

As a chilling modern symbol, the barcode resonates with the struggles faced in an increasingly impersonal and disconnected world, where the sanctity of the individual is compromised by more extensive systems of deception and betrayal.

18. The Color Black

The Color Black

Black—the color synonymous with darkness, voids, and the very absence of light—occupies a deep psychological niche as a symbol of betrayal. With its resonance to death, malice, and negativity, black embodies the shadowy, destructive aspects of human emotion that can rip apart bonds and shatter trust.

In literature and art, black lends character and setting alike a foreboding atmosphere—an intrinsic harbinger of the inevitable treachery that looms.

Whether through clothing, dreams, or the dark corners of our psyches, black stands as an eternal reminder of the devastating potential of betrayal to sever ties, leaving behind a void that may prove difficult to fill.

19. Icy Path

Icy Path

The ice-cold descent into the unknown, slipping and sliding on treacherous ground, the icy path is a powerful metaphor for the precarious journey of those who have been betrayed. It symbolizes the fragile, uncertain quest to navigate the twisted turns of trust, betrayal, and heartbreak, veiled by fears and caution.

Icy paths may appear in dreams, nightmares, or even literary tales that pull at the threads of human emotion, laying bare the chill that lingers in the wake of a betrayal.

Metaphorically, the icy path warns us of the dangers that lurk beneath the surface, advising us to tread carefully in our relationships and on our journey toward self-discovery.

20. Weeping Willow

Weeping Willow

In the mystical realms of dream interpretation, the weeping willow sways to the lament of the betrayed, mirroring the sorrowful emotion that follows a trust broken.

The weeping willow, with its cascading limbs and melancholic canopy, represents the mourning that arises in the aftermath of betrayal and the subsequent loss of one’s emotional anchor.

As such, this sorrowful tree casts its drooping shadow across the dreamscape, becoming a symbolic anchor for the suffering that rests within the injured heart in the hopes of finding solace.

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