“Zonta” is derived from a Lakhota (Teton Dakota), a language of the Native-American Sioux peoples, word meaning honest and trustworthy. It was adopted in 1919 to symbolize the combined qualities of honesty and trust, inspiration and the ability to work together for service and world understanding. The emblem is not simply a decorative design. It is an adaptation and composite of several Sioux Indian symbols which when superimposed take on a special significance for Zontians.
What appears to be the letter “Z” is actually the Sioux symbol for “ray of light,” “sunshine” or “flash of radiance”–and so by extension, “inspiration.”
The 2nd part is a Sioux symbol means “to band together for a purpose” or “to stand together”–in a word, “loyalty”. With loyalty, individual members band together into clubs, clubs into districts, and districts into Zonta International. So loyalty surrounds the radiance and the inspiration as a familiar pattern begins to emerge.
This third component is the Sioux way of saying “to carry together”. Carrying together is a most important ingredient for the accomplishment of Zonta’s purpose: to work for the advancement of understanding, good will and peace through a world fellowship of business executives and professionals. This symbol has been conventionalized to lend itself to the total pattern and slips over the inspiration and the loyalty to draw members closer together.
This 4th part is the Sioux symbol for “shelter”. Zonta’s many service projects are in a real and broad sense shelter for someone or something. And service is synonymous with Zonta. This symbol therefore lends itself importantly in significance and design, embodying Zonta’s aims and aspirations.
The symbolism of the square is not exclusively Sioux, nor indeed is it exclusively Native American. It perhaps dates back even further than all of these other symbols in its representation of “honesty” and “trust”–strong and vital qualities with which to bind together the parts of the whole.
Finally, we can recognize the 6th image – a symbol composed of many symbols– that became Zonta’s emblem signifying a radiant group of successful business executives and professionals who are loyal to the same inspired goals of service and world understanding with none but the most honest and trustworthy motives.
(from Zonta Club of Amherst at amherstzonta.weebly.com)