Dove Meaning & Symbolism: The Ultimate Guide & What it Means to You

Around the world, many traditions assign animals special spiritual meaning, and doves are one of the most highly regarded. But what does a dove symbolize? 

Many cultures consider these dainty, beautiful birds to symbolize peace and love. They’re also viewed as messengers of the divine. Throughout history and practically all societies today, doves hold powerful symbolic meaning.

Types of Doves

white dove meaning and symbolism
A white dove. Photo by Al Ishrak Sunny on Unsplash

Although the white dove is the most famous variety, there are several different kinds of doves, each symbolizing different things. 

What Does a White Dove Symbolize?

A white dove symbolizes purity, innocence, and divinity, and many cultures compare them to angelic beings. White doves provide feelings of protection and comfort, but the most common dove meaning relates to peace, as they are docile birds. 

What Does a Mourning Dove Symbolize?

Mourning doves signify that your inner being is coming into perfect balance with the outside environment. They are a reminder to stay grounded in the present and encourage spiritual well-being. 

What Does a Gray Dove Symbolize?

Gray doves are a sign of many things: psychic awakening, compassion, and the awakening of a dormant intuition are just a few. 

What Does a Black Dove Symbolize?

It is common for black doves to appear during times of anxiety or depression. They represent transition, so seeing a black dove may signify that you are overcoming a limiting belief. 

What Does a Turtle Dove Symbolize?

Turtle doves are also called Mourning doves, and they symbolize empathy, completion, and balance. 

Dove Symbolization in Various Contexts

dove spiritual meaning through christian bible

What does a dove symbolize in different situations? Here’s a look at varying examples of dove symbolization across many different instances.

Spiritual

Doves appear throughout history when we look at divine visitation. People have always believed that doves share a special connection to the spirit realm and view them as messengers that connect the spiritual and physical worlds. They are associated with peace, love, purity, hope, and devotion. 

Cultural

In modern culture, doves also have many meanings. As mentioned, the most common is peace, but they are also seen as signs of love and marriage. In general, most people view doves as a good omen.

The Bible

Doves appear many times in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, and they appear as a holy messenger in Matthew 3:16. 

Christianity

In Christianity, doves represent peace and a signal that challenges are ending. They are associated with Mother Mary and her desirable qualities (like purity, devotion, care, and peace), and doves are also an important symbol in the tale of Noah’s Ark. 

Paganism

Dove symbolism also appears in many Pagan religions, most notably in Mesopotamia (which we’ll look at below). 

Tattoos

The meaning behind a dove tattoo will vary depending on the individual, but people who get them usually want to symbolize peace, harmony, and love. Still, others tattoo a dove on their body to represent a connection with a higher power. 

Native Americans

dove meaning to native americans

Native American peoples have several different interpretations of doves.

Like many other cultures, they view doves as the union of the physical realm and spiritual worlds. Some groups, like the Blackfoot, view them as a sign of protection. The Algonquin also believe they are a bad omen indicating death is near, while the Pueblo believe they bring rain. 

Dreams

How you interpret the meaning of a dove dream depends on your view of these birds and the emotions you experienced in the dream. But in general, we can view them as peaceful animals, and positive dreaming about them is often a good omen. You may feel more relaxed or ready to take on challenges after dreaming about doves. 

China

In China, doves are a symbol of devotion and fertility. In relationships, they represent fidelity and unconditional love. Images of doves are also used in feng shui to facilitate the flow of Chi for longevity and love.

Japan

Japanese mythology tells that the god of war, Hachiman, chose a dove as his messenger. Doves are also a symbol of honor in Japanese culture for those lost in Hiroshima. 

Islam

Followers of Islam respect doves because they believe doves assisted the prophet, Muhammad when he was running from Quraysh warriors. While looking for a place to hide, doves built a nest to distract Muhammad’s enemies and keep him safe.

Hindu

In Hindu culture, doves have an association with the god of love and desire, Kamadeva. Therefore, we can usually see Kamadeva represented while riding a dove.

Spirit Animal

Spirit animals guide us in the right direction. For example, if your spirit animal is a dove, you may value stable relationships, peace, and self-awareness. Dove people are affectionate, gentle, and kind, and they are often skilled at restoring peace during times of confrontation. 

Power Animal

Power animals empower people with their best traits and can help you transform certain areas of your life. The dove has many qualities as a powerful animal in helping bring about peace and love. In addition, they are seen as helpful in fostering communication and keeping anger away. Doves can also provide guidance if you are feeling lost or directionless. 

Totem Animal

Totem animals are spirit guides that we call on when we are in need, and they express the protective powers of a particular animal. For example, if you have a dove totem, you are compassionate and loving, though you must be careful of people who want to manipulate your love. 

Feather

Dove feathers represent the protection and love of guardian angels. They also symbolize our connection with the divine and are believed to be messages sent from the spiritual realm. 

Angels

For some, the high spiritual energy of white doves creates a gateway between heaven and earth, and specifically angels. Those who believe in this symbol may interpret seeing a dove as receiving a visit from a divine being. 

Mythology and Folklore

dove symbolism to Greek Mythology Aphrodite
Statue of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite.

We can see several examples of doves in mythology and folklore. 

Greek

For the ancient Greeks, doves were symbols of rebirth, love, and immortality. We can often see the Greek goddess Aphrodite depicted surrounded by doves. She was born in a chariot drawn by doves, as legend has it. The birds also brought ambrosia with them, which the gods and goddess drank for longevity. 

Celtic

The Celtics believed that the dove was associated with the divine feminine, specifically rebirth and wisdom. Therefore, they saw it as a sign of healing, and they also believed doves were oracle birds. 

Aztec

Aztec mythology associates doves with Xochiquetzal, the goddess associated with love and fertility. As the myth goes, when Xochiquetzal arrived on earth following a disastrous flood, she came as a dove and gave people the gift of speech and language. 

Mesopotamia

We can also find doves in written mythology dating back to 3000 BC in Mesopotamia. This culture associated the birds with Inanna, their fertility goddess. They also appear in the Mesopotamian story The Epic of Gilgamesh

Freedom

For many people, seeing a beautiful white dove flying nearby is a sign of freedom. Because they are pure and white, the sight of them is calming and freeing. 

Death

Despite positive associations of love and peace, white doves also have an association with death. In some cultures, like the ancient Greeks and Slavic peoples, the belief is that they carry an individual’s soul to the afterlife. Some people think that doves pass messages from their loved ones, letting them know they are at peace. 

Funeral

Because of their connection with death, it’s not uncommon to see white doves released at funerals. This practice is a way for family and friends to release their loved one’s physical presence on earth. As the doves fly away, they represent the deceased’s spirit passing into the next realm and becoming free of sickness or old age. 

Dove and Olive Branch 

Finally, we often see doves depicted with an olive branch. This depiction symbolizes peace, as the old saying of “offering an olive branch” goes. 

What Does It Mean When a Dove Appears in Certain Situations? 

Have you been visited by a dove? Depending on the situation, the meaning can vary. 

When a Dove Visits You

It’s unusual for wild birds to visit humans, so a visit from a dove is special indeed, especially if you are dealing with an intense period of grief or feeling unlike yourself. But what does a dove symbolize when it’s visiting you? 

A dove may visit you to gently help you get back into harmony and remind you to go with the flow. Or, in the case of grief, this visit may be a reminder that spiritual love surrounds you.

When a Dove Comes to Your Window

Some say that white doves come to good people. So if you see one at your window, it could symbolize positive energy. 

When a Dove Hits Your Window

A dove hitting your window could mean you are too deep inside your dreams and not living enough in the moment. Consider this event a warning to stay grounded and present. 

When a Dove Hangs Around Your House

Depending on your spiritual beliefs, a dove hanging around your house may be trying to bring you messages of love and peace. So pay attention to the animal, as it may have a message from a loved one or even a message from God. 

When a Dove Makes a Nest on Your Porch

Suppose a dove takes up residence on your porch signals that you are receptive to divine feeling, harmony, and energy. It might be a good time to connect with your spiritual side. 

When a Dove Lands on or Near You

Doves are less afraid of humans than other birds, so they occasionally land on or near us. It is an extraordinary occurrence when this happens, and it’s best to take time to sit with it and observe what is happening around you and inside you. 

If you are nervous or anxious, the dove might be visiting you to calm you as they are affectionate animals. Their message is to weather the storm calmly, even if you feel you lack control. 

When a Dove Crosses Your Path

What does a dove symbolize when you spot it walking past? First, doves are considered peacekeepers, so when one crosses your path, it can be a reminder to view a conflict from a neutral, accepting place. Otherwise, it might simply be a sign to accept others and show them compassion, no matter how different they are. 

When a Dove Follows You

If you notice a dove following you, consider it a message that you are in a time of rediscovery. These creatures follow those who are in pursuit of a greater divine purpose in life. 

When There Are Lots of Doves in the Yard

Multiple doves are a sign of a generous spirit, so if you see several, it’s an excellent time to share with others. For example, you may want to share your wealth, though what you share need not be material. Instead, you could share emotional or spiritual connections with others. 

When There Are Two Doves

Doves are famously monogamous creatures. So if a pair visits you, it’s a sign to heal relationships–either platonic or romantic–and rid yourself of toxic ones. 

When a Dove Coos

In some religions, the soft coos of a dove indicate a divine calming presence near us. These coos may also be the voice of celestial messengers. 

A Dead Dove 

Dead doves represent transition and change. If you see one, it’s a sign that one part of your life is ending and another is beginning. 

A Dove Appearing At Night

A dove appearing at night could signify that some significant change is about to happen to you. It may also be a sign to look within the darkest parts of your being to find your greatest potential. 

A Dove Appearing on Your Wedding Day 

The presence of doves at a wedding is a symbol of everlasting love between the newlywed couple. In both ancient and modern weddings, people release doves for this reason. 

Do Doves Symbolize Death?

Some cultures view doves as a symbol of transitions. Because death is the most significant transition we make, doves generally symbolize the journey from living to dying. 

Is Seeing a Dove Good Luck?

Yes, seeing a dove is considered lucky, particularly for our romantic life. Because these animals mate for life, many think they are a good omen for luck in love. 

Next Steps

So, what does a dove symbolize? The next time you see a dove appear next to your window or one following you, consider that it might be trying to tell you something. Doves might try to draw your attention to bring you a message of peace or to warn you that a significant change is on the horizon. 

Enjoy looking for doves and what they might be trying to tell you when you spot them! Happy Birding!

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.