The Meaning of the Claddagh Ring
The history of the Claddagh ring is shrouded in the mists of time, with a few likely stories on the verge of fantastic legend. Fortunately, the meanings of the Claddagh ring survived, or have been interpreted to still have meaning in the modern world.
The design of the ring shows two hands either forming or holding a heart. A crown is often placed on top of the heart. Claddagh rings without the crown are sometimes referred to as Fenian or Dublin Claddagh. The hands signify faith and trust. The heart promises not only love but also charity. The crown signifies loyalty along with honor, or the hope of future glory.
Although regarded as Celtic, the origin of the Claddagh only goes back to the 16th century, although according to legend is based on a much older Celtic design. It is said to signify love, loyalty and friendship, “gra, dilseacht, cairdeas” in Gaelic.
The first meaning of the Claddagh ring is to the wearers themselves. Many Irish inhabitants wear the ring entirely as a symbol of their Celtic roots. They wear it as a symbol of pride in their Irish ancestry and to celebrate Irishness ý nghĩa đeo nhẫn.
This pervades throughout the world as Irish communities sprung up across the globe. From the famine of 1847, which forced thousands of Irish to flee, to general migration, the Claddagh ring has spread its wings far and adorns fingers in every country of the world. For those outside Ireland, it’s a link to their ancestry. A reminder of their heritage, their roots.
First, second and third generation Irish wear it to honor their ancestors and to stay in touch with their heritage. Whatever your views on the origin of the design, popular belief is that there are three ways to wear the Claddagh ring.
When worn on the ring finger of the right hand of a woman with the heart facing outwards, it means that the wearer’s heart is free, or “a heart open to love” as the Irish say.
When worn on the right hand of a woman with the heart facing inwards, it means the heart is spoken for and the wearer is in a relationship.
When worn on the ring finger of a woman of the left hand with the heart outwards means that the wearer’s heart is truly unavailable, as the wearer is married.
This symbolism would have at one time aided a suitor into determining a woman’s availability without awkward questions. To a certain degree that may remain true today. However, don’t take it for granted as it’s entirely possible that only the tiniest portion of wearers knows the significance on where and how they wear it.
The Claddagh ring is also unisex, which is why the meanings above are directed at a woman’s hands. Men can wear the ring too, but the meanings don’t hold true for them.