The basics
The Symbols
Modifiers of Meaning

The Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water Signs

As you work through this post, count up the number of planets in each of the element groupings (earth, air, fire, water signs) in your birth chart. Look up your totals below– because the earth air fire water signs all mean something different, depending on how many are present in your birth chart.

As recently as a few hundred years ago, Western scientists considered the whole earth to be made of just these four elements. Modern science has taken a different turn. Now we have the periodic table with 100+ elements. But the old symbolism still works. We can still use the four elements to make sense of the world. We can read the balance of earth, air, fire, and water signs to appreciate the ways that different people experience life and express themselves.

Fire Signs

fire signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

The fire signs are AriesLeo, Sagittarius

The fire element in astrology symbolizes those traits and concepts that spark, spread, and energize like fire. You know a fire sign by their passion, enthusiasm, and energy. Fire represents the animating spirit behind impulse, enthusiasm, inspiration, idealism, and faith. Fire signs are the leaders and the cheerleaders of the zodiac. They show up with a great deal of creative energy that motivates, inspires, and radiates. But they have to be aware of a destructive side to these traits. Fire can light up the room– but also burn down the house if it’s out of balance.

fire signs be like

  • A person with 2-4 planets in fire signs in the chart is enthusiastic, motivated, and idealistic. On the flip side of the coin, fire signs can also be insecure, egocentric, and impractical.
  • Someone with 5 or more planets in fire signs may feel so overwhelmed by their passion that they consciously hold it back. They often appear quiet and shy until they feel safe enough to open up.
  • 0-1 planets in fire signs describe a person with a lower energy level who seeks out others to inspire or motivate them. When a chart has a low fire count, the person tends to feel more than they express.

Earth Signs

earth signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

The earth signs are TaurusVirgoCapricorn.

The earth element represents those traits that ground us and get us through the material world. You’ll know the earth signs by their practicality, stability, materialism, and realism. Dutiful and dependable, earth signs are the ones that show up with what you need. They are naturally tuned to finances, the five senses, and the resources necessary for survival and comfort. There is usually a deep affinity with nature, especially signs be like

  • Someone with 2-4 planets in earth signs is resourceful and possesses talent in dealing with reality and material things– like money, business, or crafts.
  • A person with 5 or more planets in earth signs can get so stuck in the material realm that they miss the deeper meanings.
  • A person with 0-1 planets in earth signs often does not have to worry over finances. Bill Gates, for example. Although they do tend to be impractical and out of touch with their bodies.

Air Signs

air signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

The air signs are GeminiLibraAquarius

The air element symbolizes traits and concepts that get us by in the social world. Air signs “live in their minds.” You know them by their intellect and ideas. Air signs enjoy words and language, figuring out complex problems and puzzles. Air signs excel in the realm of communication: language, logic, reason, communication, and socializing.

air signs be like

  • A chart with 2-4 planets in air signs represents a very intelligent person with many ideas to share. They may lack grounding and try to do too many things at once.
  • If the chart has 5 or more planets in air signs, the native may be stuck in their thoughts and disconnected from what is happening around them.
  • People with 0-1 planets in air signs typically have no problem with the intellectual side of life. They often hold advanced degrees.

Water Signs

water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Water signs are CancerScorpioPisces

The water element symbolizes those traits and mysteries that bind us together. Water signs are ruled by their emotions and are often extremely intuitive. They are the “feelers,” nurturers, and caretakers. They tend to be interested in mysticism and intuition. They are empathic by nature, attuned to the unspoken and often unconscious emotions around them. This ability to “read the room” can be a great asset in their personal life as well as their professional life.

water signs be like

  • A person with 2-4 planets in water is a very sensitive and emotional person. They have strong intuition and even psychic abilities.
  • A person with 5 or more planets in water signs is so emotionally sensitive that they hold back. They may appear detached or aloof in their attempts to insulate themselves.
  • A chart with 0-1 planets in water does not mean the person has no feelings! But they may be out of touch with those feelings. They seek situations that allow them time and space to feel and express their unexpressed emotions.

Elements and modes in astrology

Each sign belongs to one of the four elements (fire, earth, air, water signs).

Each sign also belongs to one of the three modes (cardinal, fixed, mutable signs).

Knowing the element and mode for each sign makes finding aspects between the planets much easier.

The Zodiac signs belonging to each element appear in triangular groupings on the wheel.  These triangular groupings form the basis of the trine aspect. Trines show us where life is easy because planets in the same element “speak the same language.” They help and support one another, and they work easily together.

Get Birth Charts for Beginners. Astrology flashcards and help you really start connecting the symbols of the chart with their meanings so you can understand yourself and your loved ones a little better. 

earth air fire water signs

Frequently asked questions

How do you know if you’re earth, air, fire, or water?

The easiest way is to go by your horoscope sign, based on your birthday. Your element is the one that your horoscope sign falls under. That makes you an earth, air, fire, or water sign.

In reality, most people have more than one element represented when you consider more factors from their birth chart. The elements of your Moon sign and Ascendant sign speak to other important facets of your personality.

Why isn’t Aquarius a water sign?

The symbol for Aquarius is the water bearer. But Aquarius is an air sign. Why is that?

Water represents emotions, the unconscious. The water bearer contains the emotions outside of himself. Aquarius observes the water.

Aquarius lives in the human, intellectual, logical realm of the air signs. Unless strong water sign placements suggest otherwise, you won’t typically find Aquarius swimming in the unconscious water sign realm like a Pisces fish or a Cancer crab or reacting from animal survival mode like a Scorpion.