The Symbolism of Iron (11 Surprising Meanings)

Iron symbolizes many things. Typically, we associate it with strength, power, hard work, grit, courage, sharpness, tenacity, and even confidence

Many historical personalities, too, were connected in one way or another to iron. The prime example was Margaret Thatcher, popularly nicknamed as the “Iron Lady” because of her uncompromising and tenacious leadership style. 

Interestingly, iron is also present in the Bible, and in literature at times – most notably perhaps, in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Cold Iron.” See what iron represents in the Bible in more detail later on in the article. Keep reading to learn more about the symbolism of iron.

The Symbolism of Iron: 8 Things Iron Represents

1. Strength

There’s an element of strength when we think about iron. After all, iron is a hard metal and has commonly been revered as a prestigious one, too. And because of its rigid nature, we sometimes attribute it to the quality of strength.

It’s also a strong material. When iron swords started being produced in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., they were superior to older blades and thus presented an advantage on the battlefield.

Read Also: Strength Symbolism

2. Power

Iron is a symbol of power. If a leader is an iron leader, it means they’re tough and uncompromising to the opponents. That’s why the saying “to rule with an iron fist” developed. This saying implies that one rules their subordinates in a particularly harsh and cruel way.

Of course, there’s also Margaret Thatcher, who was nicknamed the “Iron Lady” and for good reasons. She had her way of ruling – which was very strict and unforgiving.

Read Also: Chain Symbolism

3. Hard Work

Iron is closely connected to the virtue of hard work. Perhaps it’s because of the centuries of hard work it took to dig out iron and then melt it and work it to create tools and weapons.

It’s always been a valuable resource and closely tied to blood, sweat, and tears.

4. Fortitude and Tenacity

If one is iron-willed, they are very determined to complete an action and get to their end goal, or their desired result. It signifies a stubborn personality that stands against adversity and can overcome any difficulty that might come in their way.

As such, iron is a clear symbol of a strong character, especially in staying firm no matter what comes in its way.

5. Sharpness

Like iron swords, the character of an iron-willed person is also sharp. Alternatively, there’s a feeling of cutting edge when we think about iron. Tools and weapons have been made throughout history from iron.

6. Lack of Emotions (Cold Character)

On the other hand, iron is a relatively cold metal on touch. It signifies a cold personality, one that’s lacking warm emotions towards other people. Instead, it’s a persistent and determined personality willing to do almost anything to achieve their goal.

Similarly, iron can also represent coldness in itself. Even though it takes incredibly high temperatures to work iron, what comes out is a cold metal when it cools down.

7. Medicine

Perhaps a surprising symbol, but not when you consider the history of iron. In the 15th and 16th centuries, chemists and alchemists started to discover the medicinal attributes of iron. In 1574, a doctor from Seville, Nicolas Monardes, described iron in his essay “Dialogue about the grandeur of iron.” In it, he proclaims iron is superior to other metals for medicinal purposes.

8. Male Energy

Iron is believed to be dominated by planet Mars, a symbol of manliness and male energy. This is, of course, the opposite of Venus, which is the symbol of femininity. As such, iron is also sometimes connected to men and male energy. It depicts a male’s confidence, strength, virility, stamina, and resilience.

Read Also: Axe Symbolism

The Symbolism of Iron in the Bible

In the Bible, iron was explicitly used in Daniel’s prophecy, where he described every ruling civilization. They were depicted as having the head of gold, the chest of silver, the belly of bronze, the iron legs, and the feet iron mixed with clay. This describes a society in a ruling civilization where the iron represents the ordinary people upon which the culture stands.

In his prophecy, Daniel proclaimed the following:

Daniel, 2:42: And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potter’s clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it the strength of the iron, …(but weakened because of)… the miry clay. And as the toes and the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so (too) the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, but they shall not cleave to one another, even as iron does not (successfully) mix with clay.

In Revelation 19:15-16, Jesus Christ is included in the prophecy and is predicted to come back with an iron rod in his hand. He will “lead” the people with this iron rod, which is where iron perfectly describes a feeling of power and strength.

Here are three other symbolisms that iron often represents in the Bible:

  • Judgment
  • Punishment
  • Quality and technology (since iron was considered highly technological in the times when the Bible was written)

The Symbolism of Iron in Literature

Iron represents a fascinating entity in literature, and it certainly plays an exciting role. One of the most notable poems where iron is present in literature is in Rudyard Kipling’s work. More precisely, it’s an ever-present feature in his poem called “Cold Iron.”

In the poem, the Baron is a figure that defends iron and proclaims it as “the master of them all,” referring to iron being the superior metal out of all. For him, gold was for his mistress, and silver was for his maid, but iron was for the Baron. This creates a contradiction with his King, who eventually wages war against him, where the Baron is humiliated.

There’s a lot of room for interpretation as to what iron could represent in Kipling’s work. Some argue that iron is a metaphor for feigned and “fake” superiority, while others see it as a more theological symbol. 

The Meaning of Iron in Dreams

Interestingly, iron is sometimes present in dreams, but what exactly does it mean to dream of iron?

  • If you dream of iron, then this is a sign of friendship. It signifies you’ll soon establish a connection with a long-time friend you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • If you iron clothes in your dreams, then this means you have a boring life, and nothing exciting ever happens. It tells you to make your life more exciting and try new things to stop ironing clothes.
  • Purchasing iron in dreams (as a gift) usually carries good omens for you. It means your financial situation is going to get better soon. Another meaning could be that you’re establishing essential connections with other people and that you should continue what you’re doing.
  • Your dream of iron could also mean you’re dealing with something that requires a strong character, meaning you should stay strong if you’re currently facing a challenging situation in your life.

Final Thoughts

Iron is a strong and rigid metal, and it’s been a powerful symbol for many centuries. It’s often connected to qualities of power and strength and mental confidence and strength to overcome challenging situations. Also, it’s sometimes connected to a person without emotions.

Interestingly, iron is an ever-present figure both in the Bible and in literature. This just goes to show its highly symbolic character.

If you’re interested in other minerals, gems and natural elements, you could check out our posts on the symbolism of jade and the symbolism of salt.