For other uses, see Quincunx (disambiguation).
A quincunx of pips on the five-side of a die

A quincunx /ˈkwɪn.kʌŋks/ 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] 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

The quincunx was originally a coin issued by the Roman Republic c. 211200 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 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’”). The first citation for “A pattern used for planting trees” dates from 1606. The OED also cites a 1647 reference to the German astronomer Kepler to the astronomical/astrological meaning.


Quincunx patterns occur in many contexts:

The flag of the Solomon Islands features a quincunx of stars.
A quincuncial map
Cosmatesque pavements with the quincunx pattern

Literary symbolism

Various literary works use or refer to the quincunx pattern for its symbolic value:


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Quincunxes.
  1. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., as quoted by Pajares-Ayuela (2001).
  2. Gourley, Joseph Harvey (2008), Modern Fruit Production, Read Books, pp. 106–107, ISBN 978-1-4437-2606-1.
  3. Chambers, Mike (February 27, 2001), "NVIDIA GeForce3 Preview", NV News.
  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, 44, Springer-Verlag, pp. 21–29, ISBN 978-0-387-95449-3.
  5. R. Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, 1965
  6. Angkor Wat : Image of the Day
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 1 2 Turner, Robert (2005), Kishkindha, Osiris Press Ltd, p. 53, ISBN 978-1-905315-05-5.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Baldayev, Danzig (2006), Russian criminal tattoo encyclopedia, Volume 3, FUEL Publishing, p. 214.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. di Milo, Brisbane (2002), "Telepathic letter to Alfred Jarry", in Clements, Cal, Pataphysica, Writers Club Press, pp. 60–68, ISBN 9780595236046. See in particular p. 62.
  16. 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.
  17. Gifford, James (1999), "Reading Orientalism and the Crisis of Epistemology in the Novels of Lawrence Durrell", CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, 1 (2), the most dominant formal element expressing this state of multiplicity in The Avignon Quintet is its quincunx structure.
  18. Onega, Susana (2000), "Mirror games and hidden narratives in The Quincunx", in Todd, Richard; Flora, Luisa, Theme Parks, Rainforests and Sprouting Wastelands: European Essays on Theory and Performance in Contemporary British Fiction, Costerus New Series, 123, Rodopi, pp. 151–163, ISBN 9789042005020.
  19. Horstkotte, Silke (2005), "The double dynamics of focalization in W. G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn", in Meister, Jan Christoph, Narratology Beyond Literary Criticism: Mediality, Disciplinarity, Narratologia : contributions to narrative theory, 6, Walter de Gruyter, pp. 25–44, ISBN 9783110183528.
  20. Heaney, Séamus (1995), "Frontiers of Writing", The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures, Faber and Faber, pp. 186–202.
  21. Corcoran, Neil (1999), Poets of Modern Ireland, SIU Press, p. 62, ISBN 9780809322909.
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