In art and symbolism, a crescent (pron) is generally the shape produced when a circular
A circle is a simple shape of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane that are a given distance from a given point, the centre. The distance between any of the points and the centre is called the radius....

 disk has a segment of another circle removed from its edge, so that what remains is a shape enclosed by two circular arcs of different diameters which intersect at two points (usually in such a manner that the enclosed shape does not include the center of the original circle).
In astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, a crescent is the shape of the lit side of a spherical body (most notably the Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

) that appears to be less than half illuminated by the Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 as seen by the viewer. Mathematically, assuming the terminator
Terminator (solar)
A terminator, twilight zone or "grey line" is a moving line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a planetary body...

 lies on a great circle
Great circle
A great circle, also known as a Riemannian circle, of a sphere is the intersection of the sphere and a plane which passes through the center point of the sphere, as opposed to a general circle of a sphere where the plane is not required to pass through the center...

, such a crescent will actually be the figure bounded by a half-ellipse
In geometry, an ellipse is a plane curve that results from the intersection of a cone by a plane in a way that produces a closed curve. Circles are special cases of ellipses, obtained when the cutting plane is orthogonal to the cone's axis...

 and a half-circle, with the major axis of the ellipse coinciding with a diameter of the semicircle. The direction in which the "horns" (the points at the intersection of the two arcs) face indicates whether a crescent is waxing (also young, or increasing) or waning (also old, or decreasing). Eastward pointing horns (pointing to the left, as seen from the Northern hemisphere) indicate a waxing crescent, whereas westward pointing horns (pointing to the right, as seen from the Northern hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

) indicate a waning crescent. Note that the directions the horns point relative to the observer are reversed in the Southern hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...


The word crescent is derived etymologically from the present participle of the Latin verb crescere "to grow", thus meaning "waxing" or "increasing", and so was originally applied to the form of the waxing moon (luna crescens). The English word is now commonly used to refer to either the waxing or waning shape. In the technical language of blazoning used in heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

, the word "increscent" refers to a crescent shape with its horns to the left, and "decrescent" refers to one with its horns to the right.

In the Ancient World

The crescent is one of the oldest symbols known to humanity. Together with the sun, it appeared on Akkadian seals as early as 2300 BC and from at least the second millennium BC it was the symbol of the Mesopotamian Moon gods Nanna
Sin (mythology)
Sin or Nanna was the god of the moon in Mesopotamian mythology. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna's/Sin's worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.- Name :The original meaning of...

 in Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

 and Sin in Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

, Sin being the "Lamp of Heaven and Earth". The crescent was well known in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and was transplanted by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC as far as Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 (now in Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

The crescent and star also appears on pre-Islamic coins of South Arabia.

In the Islamic World

Before Islam, the crescent was the symbol of Sasanids and after capturing Persian lands, the crescent has been adopted by Muslim Arabs and later by Islamic faith. In the 12th century the crescent and star were adopted by the Turks and since then the crescent has been a frequent symbol used by powerful Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 empires such as the Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and the Mughals
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

. It is a historical symbol of the Turks, associated especially with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, but pre-Islamic Turkic nations such as the Göktürks
The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

 used the crescent and star figure on their coins.

The oldest representations of flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

s with the crescent are on 14th-century navigational charts, or portolanos, and manuscript of a Franciscan friar. There are discrepancies between these sources as far as the colours of fields or crescents are concerned. However, an account of flags from the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 by the author of Libro de Conoscimento confirms the widespread use of the crescent on flags in that region. These include: the flags of the kings of Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 and Lucha (yellow with a white crescent); Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 (white with a blue crescent); Mahdia
Mahdia is a provincial centre north of Sfax. It is important for the associated fish-processing industry, as well as weaving. It is the capital of Mahdia Governorate.- History :...

 in Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 (white with a purple crescent); Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

 (white with a black crescent); and Buda (white with a red crescent). Some of the 14 and 15th-century portolanos show the flag of Tunis as red with one or two crescents, which is presented on several portolanos as a symbol of the Ottoman Empire. From 16th to the 18 centuries this flag is usually shown with three white crescents; in 1793 the number of crescents was reduced to one and an eight-pointed star was later added on, when the rule of the Ottoman Empire ended, Turkey was the only Muslim state regarded as a world power at the time. Its flag was known from West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 to the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

, and helped to popularize the crescent and star among the Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 populations of many countries of Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. Muhammad Ali, who became Pasha of Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in 1805, introduced the first national flag
National flag
A national flag is a flag that symbolizes a country. The flag is flown by the government, but usually can also be flown by citizens of the country.Both public and private buildings such as schools and courthouses may fly the national flag...

 of Egypt, red with three white crescents, each accompanied by a white star. This flag, in turn, influenced the design of the first flag of independent Egypt, which was green with a white crescent and three white stars to symbolize the peaceful co-existence of Muslims, Christians and Jews. During the past two centuries the crescent and star has featured on the flags of other Muslim countries.

Though the crescent was originally a secular symbol of authority for Muslim rulers, it is now often used to symbolize the Islamic faith. However, the crescent was not a symbol used for Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 by Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 or any other early Muslim rulers, as the Islamic religion is, in fact, against appointing "holy symbols" (so that during the early centuries of Islam, Muslim authorities simply didn't want any geometric symbols to be used to symbolize Islam, in the way that the cross
A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars perpendicular to each other, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run obliquely, the design is technically termed a saltire, although the arms of a saltire need not meet...

 symbolizes Christianity, the menorah was a commonly occurring symbol of Judaism, etc.). This is why early Islamic coins were covered with Arabic writing, but contained no visual symbols.

Despite this mixed history, many Islamic nations and charities use the crescent symbol on their flags or logos (e.g. Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, The Red Crescent, etc. — though currently none of the Arab states in Arabia or the Mashreq have crescents on their flags).

Note that in the case of an astronomical crescent, such as the moon observed in the sky, the outer arc will be 180° (a half-circle as previously mentioned), while the Islamic crescent symbol (Arabic هلال hilāl) is often shown with an outer arc significantly greater than 180° (as seen in the illustrations below).

In Hinduism

The crescent moon is also a symbol associated with the Indian/ Hindu iconography, specifically Within Puranic and Tantric Hinduism. the foremost example is that of Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 (along with his aspects such as Bhairava
Bhairava , sometimes known as Bhairo or Bhairon or Bhairadya or Bheruji , Kaala Bhairavar or Vairavar , is the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with annihilation...

 and Mahakala
Mahākāla is a Dharmapala in Vajrayana Buddhism, and a deity in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, particularly in the Vajrayana school. He is known as Daheitian in Chinese and Daikokuten in Japanese...

, whose forehead is adorned with the crescent moon. But other than Shiva, the major Indian Goddesses like Durga
For the 1985 Hindi Film of Rajesh Khanna see DurgaaIn Hinduism, Durga ; ; meaning "the inaccessible" or "the invincible"; , durga) or Maa Durga "one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress" is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having eighteen arms, riding a lion...

 and Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

 (the latter more often), is depicted with the crescent. Sarasvati, another major deity, is adorned with the crescent, in her Tantric styles of depictions. Apart from that, some peripheral or liminal deities
Liminal deity
A liminal deity is a god or goddess in mythology who presides over thresholds, gates, or doorways; "a crosser of boundaries".-Etymology:The word "liminal", first attested to in English in 1884, comes from the Latin word "limen", meaning "threshold"...

 from the Tantric pantheon, such as Chinnamasta, Matangi
Matangi is one of the Mahavidyas, ten Tantric goddesses and a ferocious aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. She is considered as the Tantric form of Sarasvati, the goddess of music and learning. Like Sarasvati, Matangi governs speech, music, knowledge and the arts...

, Kamala
Kamala is a common Hindu name, usually meaning Nelumbo nucifera, the lotus. Variants include Kamal and Kamla. It is unrelated to the similar sounding name of Arabic origin meaning perfection or integrity usually spelled Kamal in English but spelled Kemal in Turkish, which appears as the middle name...

 (the tantric Lakshmi), Tara
Tara (Devi)
In Hinduism, the goddess Tara meaning "star" is the second of the Dasa Mahavidyas or "Great Wisdom [goddesses]", Tantric manifestations of Mahadevi, Kali, or Parvati...

, and Lalita or Tripurasundari
Tripurasundari is a village development committee in Baitadi District in the Mahakali Zone of western Nepal. At the time of the 1991 Nepal census it had a population of 2,487 and had 491 houses in the village....

 are always depicted as adorned with a crescent. The crescent, symbolising the re-birth or regenerative aspect of the Moon, which is symbolic of feminine power and womanhood (just as in western pagan traditions), has always been one of the important symbols and motifs in Tantra
Tantra , anglicised tantricism or tantrism or tantram, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, expressed in scriptures ....



The crescent is also used as a heraldic
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 symbol. While this usage is not directly affiliated with Islam, in some instances one can trace the introduction of the crescent in European heraldry to Crusaders returning home. The roots of the Slavic crescent can be traced to the old Slavic pagan beliefs
Slavic mythology
Slavic mythology is the mythological aspect of the polytheistic religion that was practised by the Slavs before Christianisation.The religion possesses many common traits with other religions descended from the Proto-Indo-European religion....

. In English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 a crescent is the cadence
In heraldry, cadency is any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at once...

 mark of a second son.


The crescent symbol is also used to represent the moon in astronomy
Astronomical symbols
Astronomical symbols are symbols used to represent various celestial objects, theoretical constructs and observational events in astronomy. The earliest forms of these symbols appear in Greek papyri of late antiquity. The Byzantine codices in which the Greek papyri were preserved continued and...

 and astrology, and to represent silver (the metal associated with the moon) in alchemy, where, by inference, it can also be used to represent qualities that silver possesses. (Alchemy and Symbols, By M. E. Glidewell, Epsilon.)

The crescent is the symbol of Gamma Phi Beta
Gamma Phi Beta
Gamma Phi Beta is an international sorority that was founded on November 11, 1874, at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. The term "sorority," meaning sisterhood, was coined for Gamma Phi Beta by Dr. Frank Smalley, a professor at Syracuse University.The four founders are Helen M. Dodge,...


The crescent printed on military ration boxes is the Department of Defense symbol for subsistence items. The symbol is used on packaged foodstuffs but not on fresh produce or on items intended for resale.

New Orleans is nicknamed The Crescent City, and a crescent, or crescent and star, is used to represent the city officially. The origin is the crescent shape of the old city, hugging the East Bank of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. The historical crescent, which includes the French Quarter
French Quarter
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré as it was known then...

 and was one of the few places where settlement was possible before the construction of the levee
A levee, levée, dike , embankment, floodbank or stopbank is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall, which regulates water levels...

 system, did not flood during Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

. The choice of the star and crescent symbol is a relic of the krewe
A krewe is an organization that puts on a parade and or a ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with New Orleans Mardi Gras, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida, and...

s, many of which adopted "Oriental" costume and rituals, like other societies of the 19th century.

Other crescent-shaped entities

  • A glomerular crescent is a crescent shaped scar
    Scars are areas of fibrous tissue that replace normal skin after injury. A scar results from the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues of the body. Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process. With the exception of very minor lesions, every wound results in...

     of the glomeruli
    A glomerulus is a capillary tuft that is involved in the first step of filtering blood to form urine.A glomerulus is surrounded by Bowman's capsule, the beginning component of nephrons in the vertebrate kidney. A glomerulus receives its blood supply from an afferent arteriole of the renal...

     of the kidney. It is a sign of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis
    Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis
    Rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis is a syndrome of the kidney that is characterized by a rapid loss of renal function, with glomerular crescent formation seen in at least 50% or 75% of glomeruli seen on kidney biopsies...

     (also called crescentic glomerulonephritis).
  • The Fertile Crescent
    Fertile Crescent
    The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

     was a crescent shaped fertile area of land between Ancient Mesopotamia
    Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

     and Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

  • The Golden Crescent
    Golden Crescent
    The Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia's two principal areas of illicit opium production, located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia...

     is one of Asia's two principal areas of illicit opium production.

See also

  • Lune (mathematics)
    Lune (mathematics)
    In geometry, a lune is either of two figures, both shaped roughly like a crescent Moon. The word "lune" derives from luna, the Latin word for Moon.-Plane geometry:...

  • Lunar phase
    Lunar phase
    A lunar phase or phase of the moon is the appearance of the illuminated portion of the Moon as seen by an observer, usually on Earth. The lunar phases change cyclically as the Moon orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun...

  • Croissant
    A croissant is a buttery flaky pastry named for its distinctive crescent shape. It is also sometimes called a crescent, from the French word for "crescent". Croissants are made of a leavened variant of puff pastry...

     (crescent in French)
  • Cresselia
  • Lambda Chi Alpha
    Lambda Chi Alpha
    Lambda Chi Alpha is one of the largest men's secret general fraternities in North America, having initiated more than 280,000 members and held chapters at more than 300 universities. It is a member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference and was founded by Warren A. Cole, while he was a...

    and its symbol

External links

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