Medallion vs Mandala ~ What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between a mandala and a medallion? (They look the same to me!) This is a question that’s popped up in my head from time to time over the last year or so. It recently struck me again. Then I realized there may be others out there that would appreciate a little clarification on the subject of medallions vs mandalas.

So, let’s dive in and discover the difference between medallions and mandalas. To me they’re the same things. But, others are adamant in their differences, like this discussion I found online.

Sadly, most people I have come across seem to be more adamant about their own opinion of the two verses the true meanings of the words. No definitions so far have been forthcoming. Therefore, I decided to hunt down the answer for this inquiring mind. So, let’s get to it! And, hopefully, this won’t get too deep. Lol!

Plaster Relief Medallion
Ceiling Plaster Relief Medallion by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Medallion, as defined by Merriam-Webster

1: a large medal

2: something resembling a large medal especiallya tablet or panel in a wall or window bearing a figure in relief, a portrait, or an ornament

3 or less commonly medaillon \ mā-​dä-​ˈyōⁿ  \ a small, round or oval serving (as of meat or fish)

Source: Mirriam-Webster
Ceiling Flower Mandala
Ceiling Flower Pattern Mandala by M W from Pixabay

Mandala, as defined by Merriam-Webster

1: a Hindu or Buddhist graphic symbol of the universe specificallya circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side that is used chiefly as an aid to meditation

2: a graphic and often symbolic pattern usually in the form of a circle divided into four separate sections or bearing a multiple projection of an image

Source: Mirriam-Webster

Medallion vs Mandala ~ My Takeaway from the Definitions

Yes, medallions are medals. But, I’ve also always referred to all highly detailed circular patterns as medallions. Under that intention, and for this post, I would have to say I’m following definition #2 from both definitions. So, that makes sense. Either word could indeed describe “highly detailed circular patterns” that I call medallions.

mandala plants pattern
Mandala Plants Pattern by Elena0990 from Pixabay

Although while researching for this post, I came across this plant patterned engraving which was also labeled as a mandala. So, there’s that too! Lol!

WikiDiff states the difference is as follows. (You can read their entire write up here.)

As nouns the difference between medallion and mandala
 is that medallion is a large medal, usually decorative while mandala is (Hinduism|Buddhism) a graphic depiction of the spiritual universe and its myriad realms and deities.

Source: WikiDiff


If they’re indeed so similar, except for the spiritual references included with the mandala, then by default choosing to use the term “mandala ” instead of “medallion” is like choosing to recognize Buddhism or Hinduism itself, even if you do not believe in either of those belief systems. Thereby, wouldn’t you be drawing more attention to that religious system rather than a random art design type, despite your best intentions?

Of course, that probably doesn’t matter at all. Or, does it??? Religious preferences and implications aren’t really the point of this post. Though, it is important if you have strong beliefs contrary to Buddhism or Hinduism. So, be careful what you embrace as “normal”. There may be further implications that your are unaware of. But, I digress.

Back to the differences between a mandala and a medallion. I guess they are pretty much synonymous when it comes to the basic circular design cast on everything from clothing to jewelry to art to architecture.

Do YOU have a specific opinion on way or another on medallions vs mandalas?

What are your thoughts? Mandala? Or Medallion?


As always, thanks for stopping by. Have something to add?  Let me know your thoughts! Hit the comments and share.  Talk to you soon!

Like this post?  Be sure to check out my previous posts.  Plus, you can also subscribe to get notified of my future posts.  To subscribe, fill out the Subscribe form on the right side of this page, or the Subscribe form at the bottom of this page.  Thanks!

One Reply to “Medallion vs Mandala ~ What’s the Difference?”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.