Here Is What Every Symbol On The Dollar Bill Really Means

There's no doubt the US $1 bill is highly controversial. It's the most talked about of all bills, and that's not just because George Washington's face replaced Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, who originally adorned the bill (rude). Rumors circulating over the years have alluded to the Illuminati - a secret society originating from Bavaria - and the Freemasons having planted multiple meanings within the bill, while other traditional American values displayed upon it have become quite convoluted over the decades.

But what do these hidden symbols really mean? Their original meanings have been reinterpreted hundreds of times and have come out, well, messy to say the least. Whether you want to call that mess the web of conspiracy theories that circulate around the dollar is your own prerogative. The secret symbols of the dollar bill might be suggestive of a secret society that overshadows the government but they may also signify good ol' fashioned American pride.


  • The Eye Of Providence Has Many Meanings, And The Masons Might Be One Of Them

    Official Explanation:

    The Eye of Providence, also known as the all-seeing eye of God, symbolizes God watching over humanity. It is perhaps the most haunting symbol on the American dollar bill, and certainly the most talked about. The eye is situated in a triangle with rays of light emanating from it. Above it is a Latin motto that translates to "Providence Has Favored Our Undertakings." According to Thompson, it "alludes to the many signal interpositions of providence in favor of the American cause."

    What People Think It Really Means:

    Many conspiracy theorists are convinced that the Eye of Providence is a reference to the order of the Freemasons. Many have also pointed out its striking resemblance to the symbol of the Illuminati. Despite this, the eye in the triangle was a common symbol for the Holy Trinity at the time and, in a predominantly Christian society, it would have made sense to design the dollar bill accordingly.

    It was President Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Wallace, the Secretary of Agriculture, who decided to start printing the Great Seal on paper money in 1934. Coincidentally, they were both Freemasons and favored the design due to its reference to the Masonic symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe. Others would argue that the Freemasons didn't start using a similar symbol until 10 years after the first Washington was printed - Not to mention, the design itself wasn't created by a freemason.

  • That Pyramid Might Represent Evil Spirits Taking Over America

    That Pyramid Might Represent Evil Spirits Taking Over America
    Photo: Verwüstung / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Official Explanation:

    Below the Eye of Providence is an unfinished pyramid, which according to Thompson signifies "strength and duration." The number thirteen reappears here in the number of rows, under which appears the number 1776 in Roman numerals, or the year the US officially established its nationhood.

    What People Really Think It Means: 

    According to Bill Ellis, a professor of American Studies at Pennsylvania State University, the pyramids signify human structures that have lasted throughout the ages. As mentioned before, the pyramid and eye didn't have their own place until FDR removed it from the other half of Great Seal in 1935. Roosevelt also liked the ring of a "new world order," to go along with his New Deal.

    The folklorish undertones here signaled to conspiracy theorists that the US government had been taken over by evil spirits. Other creative decodings of the pyramid and eye include the traces of a hexagram that imply even deeper meanings. 

  • There Might Be Latin Numerals Disguised As 666

    There Might Be Latin Numerals Disguised As 666
    Photo: Gerd Danigel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Official Explanation: 

    The Latin inscription below the pyramid that reads “Novus Ordo Seculorum” translates to a "New Order of the Ages." This refers to the new form of government that was being established at the time or a "new American era." "Annuit Coeptis," above the pyramid roughly translates to "endeavors are favored."

    What People Really Think It Means:

    Just like nearly everything else on this list, the meaning behind these Latin phrases and numerals have become misconstrued over the centuries. For example, some creative theorists have pointed out that if you take the M, C, and X out of out of the Roman numeral MDCCLXXVI below the pyramid, it refers to "666." Others have reinterpreted the translation of 'Annuit Coeptis' to mean "announcing conception," and 'Novus Ordo Seculorum' as "secular."

  • The US Treasury Seal Was Nearly Changed Because Of The Civil War

    The US Treasury Seal Was Nearly Changed Because Of The Civil War
    Photo: U.S. Dept. Of The Treasury / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Official Explanation:

    One of the most notable symbols on the front of the US one dollar bill is the modern seal of the US Treasury. It consists of a few notable symbols itself including a balance, a key, and thirteen stars in the shape of an upside down V. Contrary to popular belief, the balance represents justice rather than a balanced budget - a task handled by congress, not the treasury. The key symbolizes authority and the chevron's thirteen stars represent the thirteen original colonies. 

    What People Think It Really Means:

    To understand history is to understand the present. Any American who knows anything about history, knows the remnants are noticeable - that is, if they haven't already been covered up. The US Treasury seal that adorns the one dollar bill didn't always look the way it does now. The original design by Francis Hopkins was first issued in 1862, with close attention to symbolism. It was decided that the spikes surrounding the seal should equal the number of states in the union, which was 34 until the start of the Civil War when 11 states seceded from the Union. Despite this, members of the treasury saw the division as temporary and went through with the design. 

  • The Great Seal Symbolizes American Values, Be They Shallow Or Not

    The Great Seal Symbolizes American Values, Be They Shallow Or Not
    Photo: U.S. Government / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Official Explanation:

    Charles Thompson first presented his design for the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The symbolism behind each detail signifies traditional American values. The eagle, with its wings spread in valor, is adorned with loads of symbolic memorabilia. On its breast is a shield that consists of two parts - a band across the top representing Congress, and 13 vertical stripes in honor of the 13 original colonies. In its left talon the eagle is holding thirteen arrows, representing war and in its left talon, an olive branch to signify peace. The banner above the eagle is a Latin phrase which translates to "out of many, one" while the thirteen stars represent a new constellation taking place in the universe. 

    What People Really Think It Means:

    The eagle didn't always look the way it does now. Between 1801-1807 the symbols being held by the eagle were in reverse order and were being printed on the silver coin. You might not think much this, however in the language of symbols the right side signifies dominance. Many European journalists and diplomats took to their pens and condemned - what they interpreted to be - America's belligerence and eagerness to insinuate war. In light of their accusations, the design was recreated in 1807 until the War of 1812 soon diminished the upgraded eagle's peaceful efforts.

  • In God We Trust... In The First Amendment (Remember?)

    In God We Trust... In The First Amendment (Remember?)
    Photo: US Treasury / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Official Explanation:

    In 1956 the US national motto became "In God We Trust" and a law was passed by Dwight Eisenhower that it be printed on American currency, but it wasn't officially in circulation until 1957. Although it had been previously printed on coins, during the Cold War era when antireligious sentiment's from the Soviet Union were running rampant, the US government found it essential to reiterate American values.

    What People Really Think It Means:

    Certain groups and people see this over-arching motto as non-representative of such a diverse nation. In light of its religious sentiment, they have pointed out its violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, or freedom of religion. These people would like the phrase removed from US currency considering it's a public entity.