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.


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:

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


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" [See [] . The French terms "quartefeuille" and "quintefeuille" are translated as "quatrefoils" and "cinquefoils".] .


* The symbol for recycling (see Recycling symbol).
* The symbol indicating radioactivity.
* 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 and is one of the more popular Girl Scout Cookies.
* The logo of Adidas.


The green trefoil is registered under international trade-mark conventions as a symbol of Ireland. Shamrocks do not appear on Irish coins, bank-notes or postage stamps, as a rule.

Other meanings

* A trefoil formation is a cross-sectional arrangement of electrical cables that minimises electrodynamic forces during fault conditions.

ee also

*Trefoil knot

External links

* [ Explanation of Christian symbolism of Trefoil]


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  • trefoil — [trē′foil΄] n. [ME treyfoyle < Anglo Fr trifoil < L trifolium, three leaved plant < tri , TRI + folium, a leaf: see FOIL2] 1. a) any of a number of plants with leaves divided into three leaflets, as the clover, tick trefoil, and certain… …   English World dictionary

  • Trefoil — Tre foil, n. [L. tres three + E. foil leaf; cf. F. fr[ e]fle, It. trifoglio, L. trifolium. See {Tri }, {Foil} leaf, and cf. {Trifoly}.] 1. (Bot.) Any plant of the genus {Trifolium}, which includes the white clover, red clover, etc.; less properly …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • trefoil — (n.) c.1400, from Anglo Fr. trifoil (c.1265), from O.Fr. trefeuil, from L. trifolium three leaved plant, from tri three (see TRI (Cf. tri )) + folium leaf (see FOLIO (Cf. folio)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • trefoil — ► NOUN 1) a small plant with yellow flowers and three lobed clover like leaves. 2) architectural tracery in the form of three rounded lobes like a clover leaf. 3) a thing having three parts. ORIGIN Latin trifolium, from tri three + folium leaf …   English terms dictionary

  • Trefoil — Warnzeichen für Radioaktivität Trefoil (englisch für Klee , Dreiblatt) ist im Deutschen die Bezeichnung für das Warnsymbol für Radioaktivität beziehungsweise ionisierende Strahlung. Es wurde 1946 an der University of California in Berkeley… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • trefoil — noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo French, from Latin trifolium, from tri + folium leaf more at blade Date: 15th century 1. a. clover 1; broadly any of several leguminous herbs (as bird s foot trefoil) with leaves that have or appear to… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • trefoil — /tree foyl, tref oyl/, n. 1. any of numerous plants belonging to the genus Trifolium, of the legume family, having usually digitate leaves of three leaflets and reddish, purple, yellow, or white flower heads, comprising the common clovers. 2. any …   Universalium

  • Trefoil —    An ornament used in Gothic architecture, formed by mouldings in the head of window lights, tracery, panelings, etc., so arranged as to resemble the trefoil, (i.e., three leaved) clover, as an emblem of the Trinity …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • trefoil — dobilas statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Pupinių (Fabaceae) šeimos augalų gentis (Trifolium). atitikmenys: lot. Trifolium angl. clover; trefoil vok. Klee rus. клевер lenk. koniczyna …   Dekoratyvinių augalų vardynas

  • trefoil — dobilas statusas T sritis augalininkystė apibrėžtis Vienametė ir daugiametė pupinių (Fabaceae), seniau ankštinių (Leguminosae), šeimos žolė. Lietuvoje auginami raudonieji, rausvieji ir baltieji dobilai. atitikmenys: lot. Trifolium angl. clover;… …   Žemės ūkio augalų selekcijos ir sėklininkystės terminų žodynas

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