The Irish Harp Symbol: A Beautiful and Meaningful Display of Your Love for Ireland!

Learning about the Irish harp symbol gives us a new appreciation of our Irish heritage.  The Harp is known by several names.

Many refer to it as the “Folk Harp” or the “Lever Harp." Then, there are many that call it the “Celtic Harp”.

By whatever name, it is an ancient instrument, producing sounds both beautiful and delicate. It is also a symbol of Ireland with deep meaning, both ancient and modern.


The first Irish / Celtic harps were introduced approximately 1000 years ago.

As with many new things, they were not cherished from the beginning. In the earliest days, it was not at all unusual for individuals who played the instrument to be hanged for creating unique new sounds!

Today, though, the Harp is not only played in Ireland, it is immensely popular in other parts of the world, and Irish harp symbols are a staple of Irish culture.


Irish harp symbol

What is the Irish Harp?

The instrument is typically small to medium-sized.

It produces a sound that is unique to the Irish culture. The instrument has been an emblem of the nationalism of the Irish since around the 10th Century.

The actual sound is heavily dependent upon the string.

Since today’s harpstrings are typically created with nylon, the sounds emitted are soft and relatively quiet – creating an intimate ambience when played.

Why are Irish Harps Important?

The Harp appears frequently in important symbols such as family crests, various government documents and Irish coins.

In 1862, an image of the beautiful instrument was registered as an official trademark of the Guinness company.

Many businesses and individuals utilize the symbol of the Harp to reflect their nationality and pride in their history and heritage.


Irish Harp Symbol - Harp Being Played On Blarney Castle Grounds

Where Did They Come From?

According to legend, the first Irish harp was owned by a chief of the group known as the “Tuatha De Danaan”.

The chief’s name was “Dagda." His harp was lost in a war with the gods of cold and darkness - the Formorians.

Two individuals named “Lugh” and “Ogma” eventually recovered the prized instrument.

When the chief obtained his instrument, it had developed the amazing ability to call forth the seasons of both summer and winter.

Thereafter when the king played his precious harp, the melody often moved his listeners to tears, to joy and to slumber.

Because of its new, amazing abilities, the first harp was often described as that of “Sorrow, Gladness and Rest”.

A Few More Interesting Facts About the Irish Harp Symbol...

You may not know that:

  • In the modern Irish language, the Celtic harp is known as the “Clairseach."
  • Throughout history, the instrument has often been considered an emblem of the resistance surrounding the Crown of England. As a result of this, it was banned at the end of what is often referred to as the “Medieval Period."
  • It has been established that less than one dozen original harps remain from the period before the 1700s.
  • The absolute oldest Harp that is still in existence in the world is referred to as the “Trinity College Harp”. This instrument is proudly displayed in the Long Room, which is located at the Trinity College in the City of Dublin.

How Can I Make This Symbol Part of My Own Irish Expressions?

We're glad you asked! :-)

The Irish harp symbol appears in many Irish expressions, from artwork, to jewelry, to greeting cards... to beer bottles!

We recommend reviewing our segments on Irish symbols to help generate creative ideas for using the Irish harp and other symbols to share your Irish side!

Visit our section on Celtic symbols, for even more great ideas.

And if you would like to take another step in your exploration of Irish culture and customs, there are many more ideas to see in the pages of Irish Expressions!

Click on one of the links at the top of this page, and enjoy!



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