The olive branch is a branch of an olive tree. In Western culture, derived from the customs of Ancient Greece, it symbolizes peace or goodwill. The original link between olive branches and peace is unknown. Some explanations center on that olive trees take a very long time to bear fruit. Thus the cultivation of olives is something that is generally impossible in time of war.
From the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, a white dove carrying an olive branch is a sign of peace. After the Great Flood, in order to find land, Noah released a dove. The dove came back carrying an olive leaf in its beak (Noach 8:11), which informed Noah that God had taken mercy on humanity and caused the flood to recede:
- And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.
This story has led to the dove and the olive branch (combined with the classical tradition) to become symbols of peace. The rainbow may also represent peace, whereby God directs His "bow" toward Himself, an ancient symbol of a cessation of hostilities. The motif can also represent "hope for peace" or a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch".