Is there a defined use(s) for the icon enter image description here

I have seen various uses for it, but I would like to know if there is a standard purpose for it - or if it can be used as a shortcut for any function needed within the application. Any sources, research or experience with the use of this icon is appreciated.

  • I need to find a reference for it, but apparently it is a minimalization of the three stripes often seen in the hamburger menu turned into three dots?
    – Michael Lai
    May 17, 2017 at 21:27
  • @MichaelLai I have been using it for "etc" purposes, in other words, whenever there are actions or functions relevant to the section but not essential (e.g. help, share, filter information). Whereas the hamburger menu is like a shortcut within the app with the most important sections (e.g. home, configuration, sales, account). I find your comment interesting, if you find any references I would appreciate if you share it ;) May 17, 2017 at 21:38
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    I remember where it came from. Someone was talking about the 'kebab' icon that was an answer to one of the questions I had here: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/99942/… Look at the comments to the answer for a reference to LukeW.
    – Michael Lai
    May 17, 2017 at 21:47
  • Very interesting, so hamburger menu used for navigation purposes and the 'kebab' menu related to actions. I still wonder if there are any references regarding the type of actions recommended to include under the 'kebab' menu. I think it is more case-based. May 17, 2017 at 21:55
  • That icon is related to the action bar overflow menu. I.e. used when items don't fit on screen. I've seen it used for context menu's where it's not obvious that you could long-press (and long-press has been changed to activate multiple selection, instead of context menus)
    – frozenkoi
    May 18, 2017 at 4:24

3 Answers 3


According to this list: https://material.io/icons/ three vertical dots icon means "more options". Hamburger menu helps user to navigate trhough The document, three dots menu grant user functions as "new tab", "Save as" etc.... It is more versatile.

  • It is used for menus.
    – Alvaro
    May 17, 2017 at 18:52
  • So technically any functions or actions can be implemented under it? (e.g. functions that don´t fit on the screen, help or tutorials, contact button). Great source for icons @Walter Villa May 17, 2017 at 21:01

I agree with @Walter Villa but I think the concept generated from horizontal three dots used for trimming exceeding text to control the flow of UI design representing there are more content for e.g.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Fusce felis ligula, commodo vel nibh ac, dapibus dignissim nulla. Nunc lectus erat, euismod quis...

So I think this same concept used in this three vertical icons to represent more option.

Nowadays it is kind of standard icon for "more option" specially in android. There is no strict rule to use it for "more option", there is always freedom to use any other icons but as it is getting famous and users are used to know it for "more option" so it's better to use it.


It must be said: if someone is asking what an icon means, and there is pages of discussion, then the meaning of the icon isn't clear without a label. Therefore in this case, as there is no clear answer about the difference between the two icons, they are interchangable.

Neilsen goes a bit too far (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/icon-usability/) and says 'every icon needs a label', which I feel is no longer true. The '?' icon means help, the 'user' icon means my settings or profile, there are some established standards.

Just not with these 3 dots. A contextual menu is fine for either.

  • If you perform a bunch of usability testing then you'll gain an appreciation for how non-universal icons can be. Even the ubiquitous hamburger was the cause of many a discovery task-failure for its first few years in prominence on the scene.
    – mieze
    Mar 25, 2019 at 21:33

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