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 A trident /ˈtraɪdənt/, also called a trishula, leister or gig, is a three-pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and was also a military weapon. Tridents are featured widely in mythical, historical and modern culture. Poseidon the Greek god of the sea, Greco-Roman Poseidon, or Neptune the Roman god of the sea, and the major Hindu Lord and God Shiva are all classically depicted bearing a trident.

Tridents can be distinguished from pitchforks in that the latter is an agricultural tool with two to six tines (also called prongs) which are shaped in such a way that they can be used to lift and pitch (throw) loose material.

Ukrainian trident Coat of Arms

The word "trident" comes from the French word trident, which in turn comes from the Latin word tridens or tridentis: tri "three" and dentes "teeth". It is also related to Sanskrit tri (त्रि "three") - danta (दंत "tooth"), although several Indian languages prefer another similar word, trishula (tri त्रि "three" + ṣūla शूल "thorn"), derived from Sanskrit, meaning "triple spears".

The Cyrillic Тризуб (Trizub) is a combination of two words Tri (three) and zub (tooth). Tryzub is the Coat of Arms of Ukraine which takes its roots from the Kievan Rus, descendants of Rurik. The Greek equivalent is τρίαινα (tríaina), from Proto-Greek trianja (threefold), cognate with the Latin triens. The Greek deity Poseidon is armed with a trident.

A number of structures in the biological world are described as trident in appearance. Since at least the late 19th century the trident shape was applied to certain botanical shapes; for example, certain orchid flora were described as having trident-tipped lips in early botanical works. Furthermore, in current botanical literature, certain bracts are stated to have a trident-shape (e.g. Douglas-fir).



Tridents for fishing usually have barbed tines which trap the speared fish firmly. In the Southern and Midwestern United States, gigging is used for harvesting suckers, bullfrogs, flounder, and many species of rough fish.


As a weapon, the trident was prized for its long reach and ability to trap other long-weapons between prongs to disarm their wielder. In Ancient Rome, in a parody of fishing, tridents were famously used by a type of gladiator called a retiarius or "net fighter". The retiarius was traditionally pitted against a secutor, and cast a net to wrap his adversary and then used the trident to kill him.


Parallel to its fishing origins, the trident is associated with Poseidon, the god of the sea in Greek mythology, the Roman god Neptune, and Shiva, a Hindu God who holds a trident in his hand. In Greek myth, Poseidon used his trident to create water sources in Greece and the horse. Poseidon, as well as being god of the sea, was also known as the "Earth Shaker" because when he struck the earth in anger he caused mighty earthquakes and he used his trident to stir up tidal waves, tsunamis and sea storms. In Roman myth, Neptune also used a trident to create new bodies of water and cause earthquakes. A good example can be seen in Gian Bernini's Neptune and Triton.

In religious Taoism, the trident represents the Taoist Trinity, the Three Pure Ones. In Taoist rituals, a trident bell is used to invite the presence of deities and summon spirits, as the trident signifies the highest authority of Heaven.

A trident also has references as:

    The traditional weapon of the Hindu god Shiva.
    A weapon of South-East Asian (particularly Thai) depiction of Hanuman, a character of Ramayana.
    A fork Jewish priests (Kohanim) used to take their portions of offerings.
    The national emblem on the flag of Barbados.

    The "forks of the people's anger", adopted by the Russian anti-Soviet revolutionary organization, National Alliance of Russian Solidarists (NTS).
    The symbol of the Swedish Coastal Rangers, Kustjägarna.

    The coat of arms of Ukraine (Tryzub) – the symbol of Rurik Family.

    Britannia, the personification of Great Britain.
    The US Navy Special Warfare insignia, worn by members of the US Navy SEALs, and containing a trident representing the three aspects (Sea, Air, and Land) of SEAL special operations.

    Part of the golden-colored crest of the United States Naval Academy, which depicts a trident running vertically in its background.
    The symbol for Washington and Lee University.

    The symbol (since June 2008) for the athletic teams (Tritons) at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
    Sparky the Sun Devil, the mascot of Arizona State University, holds a trident. (ASU recently redesigned its trident as a stand-alone symbol)
    The trident was used as the original cap insignia and original logo for the Seattle Mariners.

    An element on the flag of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
    The Maserati logo
    Steel facade structures 60 feet tall, ringing the bases of the WTC Twin Towers, of which two that survived are displayed in the National 9/11 Memorial Museum

    The glyph or sigil of the planet Neptune in astronomy and astrology.
    Club Méditerranée