Trefoil

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Trefoil (from Latin trifolium, "three-leaved plant", French trèfle, German Dreiblatt and Dreiblattbogen) is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism. The term is also applied to other symbols of three-fold shape.

Contents

Architecture

Trefoil is a term in Gothic architecture given to the ornamental foliation or cusping introduced in the heads of window-lights, tracery, panellings, etc., in which the center takes the form of a three-lobed leaf (formed from three partially-overlapping circles). One of the earliest examples is in the plate tracery at Winchester (1222 - 1235). The fourfold version of an architectural trefoil is a quatrefoil.

A trefoil combined with an equilateral triangle was also a moderately common symbol of the Christian Trinity during the late Middle Ages in some parts of Europe. Two forms of this are shown below:

Outlined

Interlaced

A dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, is sometimes depicted within the outlined form of the trefoil combined with a triangle.

Heraldry

The heraldic trefoil is a stylized clover. It should not be confused with the figure named in French heraldry tiercefeuille, which is a stylized flower with three petals. It differs from the heraldic trefoil in being not slipped. It could be translated as threefoil.[1]

Trefoil in heraldry

Or a fess sable between three trefoils vert

Gules a cross flory argent between four tiercefeuilles Or

Croatian trefoil

Symbols

Radioactive hazard trefoil

Biological hazard trefoil

Universal recycling symbol

Fallout shelter trefoil

One particular stylized form of the heraldic trefoil is used as the main element in the logo of most Girl Guide and Girl Scout organizations. For Girl Scouts, the three trefoil leaves represent the three-fold promise: "To serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law."

While the green trefoil is considered by many to be the symbol of Ireland, the harp has much greater officially-recognized status. Therefore shamrocks generally do not appear on Irish coins or postage stamps.

A trefoil is also part of the logo for Adidas originals, which also includes the iconic 3 stripes.

Other meanings

  • A trefoil formation is a cross-sectional arrangement of electrical cables that minimises electrodynamic forces during fault conditions. Also, the electrical field of each phase conductor in a 3-phase system is negated when the other two phase conductors are nearby to form a trefoil.

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