Meaning of SYMBOL in English


I. ˈsimbəl noun

( -s )

Etymology: in sense 1, from Late Latin symbolum baptismal creed, from Late Greek symbolon, literally, token, sign, from Greek; in other senses, from Latin symbolus, symbolum token, sign, from Greek symbolon token of identity (verified by comparing its other half), sign, symbol, from symballein to throw together, compare, contribute, from syn- + ballein to throw — more at devil

1. : an authoritative summary of faith or doctrine : a creedal formulary : creed

2. : something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental but not intentional resemblance ; especially : a visible sign of something (as a concept or an institution) that is invisible

the lion is the symbol of courage

the cross was always one of the symbols of Christianity — E.S.Holden

a flock of sheep is not the symbol of a free people — New Republic

shop windows are full of festive symbols: cats and candles, witches and brooms, pumpkins and grotesque masks — Lucy Embury

a heritage is at any moment a selection of symbols out of the past — Max Lerner

3. : an arbitrary or conventional sign (as a character, a diagram, a letter, or an abbreviation) used in writing or printing relating to a particular field (as mathematics, physics, chemistry, music, or phonetics) to represent operations, quantities, spatial position, valence, direction, elements, relations, qualities, sounds, or other ideas or qualities : sign

the usual symbols for crossroads, stores, and churches on rural maps — American Guide Series: Minnesota



(1) : a formal unit of expression (as a term, proposition, or formal argument) that represents an abstract thought capable of being dealt with as a unit

(2) : a conventionally adopted character in logic

b. : a conventional or nonnatural sign depending for its meaning on an interpretant — contrasted with icon and index

5. : an object or act that represents a repressed complex through unconscious association rather than through objective resemblance or conscious substitution

6. : an act, sound, or material object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response

there must be some symbols around which interaction can be organized — W.F.Whyte


symbol , emblem , attribute , type can signify, in common, a visible thing that stands for or suggests something invisible or intangible. symbol and emblem are often used interchangeably but may be distinguished by the fact that symbol can apply to anything that serves as an outward sign of something else, usually spiritual or immaterial

the key symbols are the lilac which stands for the new birth in the spring of the year, the drooping star which stands for death, and the bird whose song embraces birth and death indifferently, and so inspires the poet that he becomes the bird — J.C.Ransom

the present law is spiteful, and … has become a symbol of dissension and bitterness — A.E.Stevenson †1965

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume”, a phrase whose casualness made it a symbol everywhere of British aplomb — American Guide Series: Arkansas

language consists of symbols

emblem usually applies to pictorial representation or to something standing as a pictorial or picturelike symbol and is often used of a pictorial device found on a shield or banner intended to serve as a chosen symbol of the character or history of the nation, royal line, or organization that has adopted it

the national emblem of the Future Farmers of America is significant and meaningful in every detail … made up of five symbols: the owl, the plow, and the rising sun, within the cross section of an ear of corn which is surmounted by the American eagle — Future Farmers of America

his emblem was a butterfly with a sting in its tail — a sting he attempted to keep in constant use — Time

the American eagle, emblem of the U.S.

the emblem of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the sickle around an arm and hammer

the cold teapot, the emptied cups, emblems of hospitality — Joseph Conrad

attribute , a term in painting and sculpture, applies to an object usually associated with a representation of a character or personified abstraction and serving to identify it

the attribute of Fortune, a turning wheel

the scales and blindfold, the attribute of Justice

type , in this connection occurring chiefly in theological use, applies to a person or thing prefiguring or foreshadowing something or someone to come and serving as his or its symbol until the reality appears, often implying a divine dispensation whereby a person, event, or experience prefigures a spiritual or immaterial reality

allegory was also called on to justify, as against educated pagans, certain acts of that heroic but peccant type of Christ, David, the son of Jesse — H.O.Taylor

Synonym: see in addition character .

II. verb

( symboled or symbolled ; symboled or symbolled ; symboling or symbolling -b(ə)liŋ ; symbols )

transitive verb

: to visualize by means of a symbol : symbolize

intransitive verb

: to employ symbols

man has the power to symbol

III. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Latin symbola, from Greek symbolē, from symballein to throw together, contribute

: something that is thrown into a common fund : contribution

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.