A quincunx of pips on the five-side of a die

A quincunx (/ˈkwɪn.kʌŋks/ KWIN-kunks) is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, with four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center.[1] The same pattern has other names, including "in saltire" or "in cross" in heraldry (depending on the orientation of the outer square), the five-point stencil in numerical analysis, and the five dots tattoo. It forms the arrangement of five units in the pattern corresponding to the five-spot on six-sided dice, playing cards, and dominoes. It is represented in Unicode as U+2059 FIVE DOT PUNCTUATION or (for the die pattern) U+2684 DIE FACE-5.

Historical origins of the name

A quincunx coin
Portuguese shield

The quincunx was originally a coin issued by the Roman Republic c. 211–200 BC, whose value was five twelfths (quinque and uncia) of an as, the Roman standard bronze coin. On the Roman quincunx coins, the value was sometimes indicated by a pattern of five dots or pellets. However, these dots were not always arranged in a quincunx pattern.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dates the first appearances of the Latin word in English as 1545 and 1574 ("in the sense 'five-twelfths of a pound or as'"; i.e. 100 old pence). The first citation for a geometric meaning, as "a pattern used for planting trees", dates from 1606. The OED also cites a 1647 reference to the German astronomer Kepler for an astronomical/astrological meaning, an angle of 5/12 of a whole circle. When used to describe a tree-planting pattern, the same word can also refer to groups of more than five trees, arranged in a square grid but aligned diagonally to the dimensions of the surrounding plot of land; however, this article considers only five-point patterns and not their extension to larger square grids.


Quincunx patterns occur in many contexts:

The flag of the Solomon Islands features a quincunx of stars.
A quincuncial map
12th-century Cosmatesque mosaic in the Cappella Palatina, Palermo, Sicily

Literary and symbolic references

Various literary works use or refer to the quincunx pattern:


  1. ^ Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., as quoted by Pajares-Ayuela (2001).
  2. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1915), The book of public arms : a complete encyclopædia of all royal, territorial, municipal, corporate, official, and impersonal arms, T.C. & E.C. Jack, p. 624
  3. ^ Chambers, Mike (February 27, 2001), "NVIDIA GeForce3 Preview", NV News, archived from the original on November 13, 2009.
  4. ^ Knabner, Peter; Angermann, Lutz (2003), "1.2 The Finite Difference Method", Numerical Methods for Elliptic and Parabolic Partial Differential Equations, Texts in Applied Mathematics, vol. 44, Springer-Verlag, pp. 21–29, ISBN 978-0-387-95449-3.
  5. ^ "Angkor Wat". earthobservatory.nasa.gov. 2004-12-25. Retrieved 2022-03-04.
  6. ^ Pajares-Ayuela, Paloma (2001), "The Signification — The Cosmatesque Quincunx: A Double-Cross Motif", Cosmatesque ornament: flat polychrome geometric patterns in architecture, W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 196–246, ISBN 978-0-393-73037-1.
  7. ^ Gilbert, Steve (2000), Tattoo history: a source book : an anthology of historical records of tattooing throughout the world, Juno Books, p. 153, ISBN 978-1-890451-06-6.
  8. ^ a b Turner, Robert (2005), Kishkindha, Osiris Press Ltd, p. 53, ISBN 978-1-905315-05-5.
  9. ^ Daye, Douglas D. (1997), A law enforcement sourcebook of Asian crime and cultures: tactics and mindsets, CRC Press, p. 113, ISBN 978-0-8493-8116-4.
  10. ^ Vigil, James Diego (2002), A rainbow of gangs: street cultures in the mega-city, University of Texas Press, p. 115, ISBN 978-0-292-78749-0.
  11. ^ Baldayev, Danzig (2006), Russian criminal tattoo encyclopedia, Volume 3, FUEL Publishing, p. 214.
  12. ^ Sherwood, Dane; Wood, Sandy; Kovalchik, Kara (2006), The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Not So Useless Facts, Penguin, p. 48, ISBN 978-1-59257-567-1.
  13. ^ Allday, Jonathan (2000), Apollo in Perspective: Spaceflight Then and Now, CRC Press, p. 77, ISBN 9780750306454, The engines were arranged across the base of the stage in the same pattern as the dots on a number 5 domino.
  14. ^ di Milo, Brisbane (2002), "Telepathic letter to Alfred Jarry", in Clements, Cal (ed.), Pataphysica, Writers Club Press, pp. 60–68, ISBN 9780595236046. See in particular p. 62.
  15. ^ Jerzy Ziomek: Renesans. Wyd. XI – 5 dodruk. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 2012, s. 201-204, seria: Wielka Historia Literatury Polskiej. ISBN 978-83-01-13843-1.
  16. ^ "That Vulcan gave Arrows unto Apollo and Diana" Aquarium of Vulcanblog; Sir Thomas Browne: A Study in Religious Philosophy, Dunn, William P., pp 126-129, 1950
  17. ^ Lobner, Corinna del Greco (1989), "Equivocation As Stylistic Device: Joyce's 'Grace' and Dante", Lectura Dantis, 4; for additional work on this instance of the quincunx pattern, see Duffy, Charles F. (1972), "The Seating Arrangement in 'Grace'", James Joyce Quarterly, 9: 487–489.
  18. ^ Gifford, James (1999), "Reading Orientalism and the Crisis of Epistemology in the Novels of Lawrence Durrell", CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, 1 (2), doi:10.7771/1481-4374.1036, the most dominant formal element expressing this state of multiplicity in The Avignon Quintet is its quincunx structure.
  19. ^ Onega, Susana (2000), "Mirror games and hidden narratives in The Quincunx", in Todd, Richard; Flora, Luisa (eds.), Theme Parks, Rainforests and Sprouting Wastelands: European Essays on Theory and Performance in Contemporary British Fiction, Costerus New Series, vol. 123, Rodopi, pp. 151–163, ISBN 9789042005020.
  20. ^ Horstkotte, Silke (2005), "The double dynamics of focalization in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn", in Meister, Jan Christoph (ed.), Narratology Beyond Literary Criticism: Mediality, Disciplinarity, Narratologia : contributions to narrative theory, vol. 6, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 25–44, ISBN 9783110183528.
  21. ^ Heaney, Séamus (1995), "Frontiers of Writing", The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber and Faber, pp. 186–202.
  22. ^ Corcoran, Neil (1999), Poets of Modern Ireland, SIU Press, p. 62, ISBN 9780809322909.
  23. ^ Eglash, Ron (April 1997), "The African heritage of Benjamin Banneker", Social Studies of Science, 27 (2): 307–315, doi:10.1177/030631297027002004, JSTOR 285472, S2CID 143652183