What Is the Meaning of the American Eagle Symbolism?

by Hallie Engel, studioD

On the Great Seal of the United States, a bald eagle majestically spreads his wings in a show of power. The bird represents freedom, thanks to its ability to soar through the skies, but was also chosen for its power and strength, and a belief held at the time of the seal's creation in the 18th century that it only lived in the U.S.

Other Symbols Related to the Eagle

The bald eagle on the Great Seal of the United States is surrounded by other powerful symbols. In his talons, the eagle holds a quiver of arrows and an olive branch, representing war and peace. The shield on the eagle is red, white and blue, colors taken from the American flag. White signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor and blue vigilance, perseverance and justice. The shield or escutcheon, which is held by the eagle without assistance, demonstrates that the American states "ought to rely on their own virtue," according to the State Department. The number 13 also appears on the seal several times, as it has 13 stars above the eagle's head, arranged in a constellation signifying a new nation taking its place among the other countries in the world, 13 stripes on the shield and 13 arrows, all representative of the original 13 colonies.

About the Author

Hallie Engel is a food and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in several international publications. She served as a restaurant critic for "Time Out Abu Dhabi" and "Time Out Amsterdam" and has also written about food culture in the United Arab Emirates for "M Magazine." She holds a bachelor's degree in communications and film studies from University of Amsterdam.

Photo Credits

  • Philip Dyer/iStock/Getty Images