Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A pictogram or pictograph is a symbol which represents an object or a concept by illustration.
Early written symbols were based on pictograms and ideograms; it is commonly believed that pictograms appeared before ideograms. They were used by various ancient cultures in the Alps, Asia, Egypt and the Mediterranean around 5000 BC and are still in use as in some non-literate cultures in Africa, The Americas, and Oceania. Though written Chinese is often thought of consisting of pictograms, less than 1% of all characters ever created have their direct origins in pictograms.
The letters of the Roman alphabet also have their origins in pictograms. For example, the letter A represented the head of an ox, and if it is turned upside down, a bovine head with horns can be seen.
Pictograms remain in common use today, serving as signs or instructions. Because of their graphical nature and fairly realistical style, they are widely used to indicate public toilets, or places such as airports and train stations. However, even these symbols are highly culture-specific. For example, in some cultures men commonly wear dress-like clothing, so even restroom signage is not universal.
A standard set of pictograms was defined in the international standard ISO 7001: Public Information Symbols. Another common set of pictograms are the laundry symbols used on clothing tags and chemical hazard labels.
In countries or regions where two or more languages are used, the typical traffic sign is very often a symbol with no writing on it. This is the case for much of Europe and several parts of Canada. Many of these signs, however, offer an abstract symbol instead of a picture, and they cannot be considered true pictograms.
The term "pictograph" can also be used to mean
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