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What’s a Monogram

monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos. A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cypher (e.g. a royal cypher) and is not a monogram

Monograms of the names of monarchs are used as part of the insignia of public organizations in kingdoms, such as on police badges. This indicates a connection to the ruler. However, the royal cypher, so familiar on pillar boxes, is not technically a monogram, since the letters are not combined.

Royal monograms often appear on coins, frequently surmounted by a crown. Countries that have employed this device in the past include Bulgaria, Great Britain, Russia, Sweden and many German states. Today, several Danish coins carry the monogram of Margrethe II, while the current Norwegian 1 Krone coin has the “H5” monogram of Harald V on the obverse. The only countries using the Euro to have a royal monogram as their national identifying mark are Belgium and Monaco. In Thailand, royal monograms appear on the individual flag for each major royal family member.

An individual’s monogram is often a very fancy piece of art used for stationery, for adorning luggage, for embroidery on clothing, and so forth. These monograms may have two or three letters.

A basic 3-letter monogram has the initial of the individual’s last name (surname) set larger, or with some special treatment in the center, while the first name initial appears to the left of it and the middle name initial appears to the right of it. There is a difference in how this is written for men and women. For example, if the individual’s name is Mary Ann Jones, and Jones is the surname, then the arrangement of letters would be thus: MJA, with the surname initial, set larger in the center, the M for Mary to the left and the A for Ann to the right. Traditionally, individual monograms for men are based on the order of the name. The name Kyle George Martin would be written (KGM).

Married or engaged couples may use two-letter monograms of their entwined initials, for example on wedding invitations. Married couples may also create three-letter monograms incorporating the initial of their shared surname. For example, the monogram MJA might be used for Michael and Alice Jones. However, monogramming etiquette for the married couple varies according to the item being monogrammed. Linens, for example, typically list the woman’s given initial first, followed by the couple’s shared surname initial and then the man’s given initial (AJM). Monograms can often be found on custom dress shirts where they can be located in a number of different positions.

Some personal monograms have become famous symbols in their own right and instantly recognizable to many, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s monogram.