30 Common Dream Symbols and Their Meanings

A fascinating list of 30 common dream symbols and their meanings. Unravel the unconscious symbols of your dreams and find clarity in waking life.

Last Updated May 17, 2021


Common Dream Symbols and Their Meanings

Dreams are like letters from the unconscious mind. If only they were written in the same language we use in waking reality.

Fortunately, we do have the ability to study our dreams and interpret the common dream symbols they contain.

Although there aren't always hard-and-fast universal definitions, the following dream meanings offer a sound starting point to understand your own personal dream meanings.

Also, don't forget:

If dream interpretation fascinates you consider learning how to lucid dream!

Now before we dive into the actual dream symbols - let's build some context around symbolism, dreams and symbollism in dreams.

What do Dreams really mean?

If dreams were movies, you could get up and walk out. I mean, you dream you're at school, but suddenly your desk is on the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium., and your second-grade teacher becomes batman's mother. Then you're back in the supermarket lying on the floor eating cereal.

How is the waking mind supposed to understand all this? The ancient Egyptians thought dreams were just a different way of seeing, with trained dreamers used to plan battles and make the critical decisions of the state.

The Greeks and Romans thought that dreams were windows into the future or visitations from the dead.

Neuroscientist Antti Revonuso of Sweden's University of Skövde has a different theory. He believes that dreams are the brain responding to potential future danger. It is the brain keeping us sharp by running a few drills.

A century of talk theory has shown that we benefit greatly by reflecting on our dreams and searching for their meaning. The 90's idea that we dream to forget, basically as an information dump by the brain, is viewed as far too simplistic by today's dream experts.

Dream Interpretation according to Freud

Sigmund Freud had the theory that dreams were about wish fulfillment. Dreams about flying were about wish fulfillment. Or, more specifically, he thought they represented repressed wishes bubbling their way to the surface. Dreams about finding new rooms in your home were about searching for opportunity. Of course, when talking about Freud, he also had something to say about sex. A sex dream is often about, well, sex. Sometimes the brain is straightforward.

30 Common Dream Symbols

  1. Animals often represent the part of your psyche that feels connected to nature and survival. Being chased by a predator suggests you're holding back repressed emotions like fear or aggression.
  2. Babies can symbolize a literal desire to produce offspring, or your own vulnerability or need to feel loved. They can also signify a new start.
  3. Being chased is one of the most common dream symbols in all cultures. It means you're feeling threatened, so reflect on who's chasing you (they may be symbolic) and why they're a possible threat in real life.
  4. Dream of Being Chased

  5. Clothes make a statement about how we want people to perceive us. If your dream symbol is shabby clothing, you may feel unattractive or worn out. Changing what you wear may reflect a lifestyle change.
  6. Crosses are interpreted subjectively depending on your religious beliefs. Some see it as symbolizing balance, death, or an end to a particular phase of life. The specific circumstances will help define them.
  7. Exams can signify self-evaluation, with the content of the exam reflecting the part of your personality or life under inspection.
  8. Death of a friend or loved one represents change (endings and new beginnings) and is not a psychic prediction of any kind. If you are recently bereaved, it may be an attempt to come to terms with the event.
  9. Falling is a common dream symbol that relates to our anxieties about letting go, losing control, or somehow failing after a success.
  10. Faulty machinery in dreams is caused by the language center being shut down while asleep, making it difficult to dial a phone, read the time, or search the internet. It can also represent performance anxiety.
  11. Food is said to symbolize knowledge, because it nourishes the body just as information nourishes the brain. However, it could just be food.
  12. Demons are sneaky evil entities which signify repressed emotions. You may secretly feel the need to change your behaviors for the better.
  13. Hair has significant ties with sexuality, according to Freud. Abundant hair may symbolize virility, while cutting hair off in a dream shows a loss of libido. Hair loss may also express a literal fear of going bald.
  14. Hands are always present in dreams but when they are tied up it may represent feelings of futility. Washing your hands may express guilt. Looking closely at your hands in a dream is a good way to become lucid.
  15. Houses can host many common dream symbols, but the building as a whole represents your inner psyche. Each room or floor can symbolize different emotions, memories and interpretations of meaningful events.
  16. Dream of Houses

  17. Killing in your dreams does not make you a closet murderer; it represents your desire to "kill" part of your own personality. It can also symbolize hostility towards a particular person.
  18. Marriage may be a literal desire to wed or a merging of the feminine and masculine parts of your psyche.
  19. Missing a flight or any other kind of transport is another common dream, revealing frustration over missing important opportunities in life. It's most common when you're struggling to make a big decision.
  20. Money can symbolize self worth. If you dream of exchanging money, it may show that you're anticipating some changes in your life.
  21. Mountains are obstacles, so to dream of successfully climbing a mountain can reveal a true feeling of achievement. Viewing a landscape from atop a mountain can symbolize a life under review without conscious prejudice.
  22. Nudity is one of the most common dream symbols, revealing your true self to others. You may feel vulnerable and exposed to others. Showing off your nudity may suggest sexual urges or a desire for recognition.
  23. People (other dream characters) are reflections of your own psyche, and may demonstrate specific aspects of your own personality.
  24. Radios and TVs can symbolize communication channels between the conscious and unconscious minds. When lucid, ask them a question.
  25. Roads, aside from being literal manifestations, convey your direction in life. This may be time to question your current "life path".
  26. Schools are common dream symbols in children and teenagers but what about dreaming of school in adulthood? It may display a need to know and understand yourself, fueled by life's own lessons.
  27. Sex dreams can symbolize intimacy and a literal desire for sex. Or they may demonstrate the unification of unconscious emotions with conscious recognition, showing a new awareness and personal growth.
  28. Teachers, aside from being literal manifestations of people, can represent authority figures with the power to enlighten you.
  29. Teeth are common dream symbols. Dreaming of losing your teeth may mark a fear of getting old and being unattractive to others.
  30. Being trapped (physically) is a common nightmare theme, reflecting your real life inability to escape or make the right choice.
  31. Dream of Being Trapped

  32. Vehicles may reflect how much control you feel you have over your life - for instance is the car out of control, or is someone else driving you?
  33. Water comes in many forms, symbolizing the unconscious mind. Calm pools of water reflect inner peace while a choppy ocean can suggest unease.

Embrace your dreams

Our nights would likely be more peaceful and sleep more restful if we didn't dream. But our imaginations would not be as rich, or our brains as nimble. We would not know ourselves so well or be able to tap into our true desires.

When we dream, our wishes can be fulfilled, if only in fantasy. The giant screening room inside our heads can alternate between joy and completely exhausting us. It is, however, a journey into our psyche and into ourselves. They cannot simply be explained by mixtures of chemicals and brain synapses firing. As complex beings, the symbols (Christian symbols ?) in our dreams have meaning, and their meaning is intertwined with our lives. Dreams are a conversation with the self about the self.

At World of Lucid Dreaming, we are always learning, investigating, studying and analysing this mystical but very real field of Dream Symbolism.

When Does a Dream Symbol Have Meaning?

Not every single element of your dream has an unconscious meaning. Sometimes, it's just background noise.

Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's Dictionary by Sandra A Thomson

To identify the important symbols in your dreams, keep a dream journal. Write in the present tense as if you're re-living the dream, and underline any unusual or poignant aspects which are central to the story, or which instinctively attract your attention.

Next, refer these dream symbols to the list above. If they're not on the list, you can find more definitions in a dream dictionary such as Cloud Nine: A Dreamer's Dictionary.

Remember, even these definitions require your interpretation - within the context of your dream, your personal psychological attachments to the symbols, and your current life circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing common dream symbols tells me you have an interest in the dreaming mind!

But have you ever considered experiencing lucid dreams ?

In fact dream symbols can be even more meaningful when encountered in your own private, lucid playground .

Using this learnable skill, we are able to take control of our dreams and direct the action ourselves!

It’s like having your own vivid and controllable alternate reality .

For example: you're being chased in a dream – you turn lucid – and then spin around and confront the enemy!

Learn this incredible skill today with our free guided course .

About The Author

About the author

Chris Hammond - Editor and "Chief Lucidity Officer" of World of Lucid Dreaming. That means he writes about lucid dreaming, awareness - and other gooey stuff like the nature of consciousness and cosmic existence. Join me at World of Lucid Dreaming Academy.