Resource Center | Traffic Sign Shapes and Their Meanings
Traffic Sign Shapes and Their Meanings

Traffic Sign Shapes and Their Meanings

Traffic signs are essential tools for properly instructing drivers and keeping our busy roadways safe. Still, there can be so many different kinds it’s difficult to tell what some of them are—especially when you’re only judging by shape. These are some of the varying traffic sign shapes and their meanings.


Octagons present one of the clearest messages to drivers; they universally mean “stop.” The shape itself is meant to be slightly jarring to passing drivers, making them more likely to notice them. Bright red stop signs are always this shape, and the direction is exclusive to this specific design.

Circles and Crossbucks

Circle and cross-shaped signs also have a meaning all their own—to indicate railroad crossings. The circle, typically yellow, will depict a black crossbuck with two R’s on either side. This is to tell the driver they’re approaching an area with railroad tracks. Crossbucks, on the other hand, are white and placed at the point where a car passes over the tracks.

Equilateral Triangles

Upside down equilateral triangles provide a driver with the direction to yield in certain circumstances. Whether it be passing pedestrians or additional traffic, this sign will indicate where it’s best to stop and let others have the right of way.


There are two different types and they each have their own distinct message to consider. Horizontally directed rectangle signs will often provide guidance to drivers—like in the form of warning or traffic control instruction. Vertical rectangles, however, indicate the permanent regulatory rules of a roadway. A speed limit sign is one example of this.


Diamond shapes are purely used for warning signs, both permanent and temporary, and will be seen most often near and around construction zones. They’ll typically be orange in color and, like stop signs, are designed to immediately grab the driver’s attention.

Pennants (Isosceles Triangles)

Sideways isosceles triangles, or pennants, are used to mark zones along the roadway where the driver isn’t allowed to pass the car in front of them. They’re often used in higher traffic areas with one lane going in either direction.


Like circle crossroad signage, pentagons are also used to warn drivers of certain zones farther down the road. However, these shapes indicate the presence of a school. They’ll be used at the beginning and end of such zones as well as in any intersection where students cross the street.

At Traffic Safety Warehouse, we believe that proper education on road sign meanings as well as access to quality products are the keys to making our roadways safer. This is why we aim to provide each of our customers with top-quality traffic safety signs and the knowledge for how they can be optimally used in their communities. Browse our collection of road signs for sale to get started.

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