em·​blem | \ ˈem-bləm How to pronounce emblem (audio) \

Definition of emblem

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a picture with a motto or set of verses intended as a moral lesson
2 : an object or the figure of an object symbolizing and suggesting another object or an idea
3a : a symbolic object used as a heraldic device
b : a device, symbol, or figure adopted and used as an identifying mark


emblemed; embleming; emblems

Definition of emblem (Entry 2 of 2)

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Emblem Has Greek Roots


Both "emblem" and its synonym "symbol" trace back to the Greek verb ballein, meaning "to throw." "Emblem" arose from emballein, meaning "to insert," while "symbol" comes from "symballein," Greek for to throw together. "Ballein" is also an ancestor of the words "parable" (from "paraballein," "to compare"), "metabolism" (from "metaballein," "to change"), and "problem" (from "proballein," "to throw forward"). Another (somewhat surprising) "ballein" descendant is "devil," which comes from Greek diabolos, literally meaning "slanderer." "Diabolos" in turn comes from diaballein, meaning "to throw across" or "to slander."

Examples of emblem in a Sentence

Noun The flag is the emblem of our nation. He has come to be regarded as an emblem of conservatism.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thus was born the llama, and the animal has been an emblem of the Andes ever since. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, "How Llama Antibodies Could Help Fight the Coronavirus," 19 June 2020 Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of black Americans, is the last state to display the confederate emblem on its state flag. Li Cohen, CBS News, "SEC tells Mississippi it has to change its flag, or risk losing host rights for championship events," 18 June 2020 Oh yes, those and a premium of $3020 ($46,525 vs. $43,505) for the Caddy emblem, which in fact got us several thumbs ups from other motorists during our test drives. Brock Yates, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1999 Cadillac Escalade Charges More For a Dressed-Up Chevy Tahoe," 17 June 2020 But that movement also faced backlash by defenders of the Confederate flag who viewed it as an emblem of heritage and regional pride, resulting in the creation of the 2017 law in Alabama. al, "‘Watershed moment’: Will removal of Confederate monuments lead to lasting change in Alabama?," 12 June 2020 The Mississippi state flag is the last state in the union with the Confederate battle emblem still emblazoned on its flag, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on a resolution to change that, according to Fox News. Andrew Mark Miller, Washington Examiner, "Lawmakers drafting resolution to remove Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi state flag," 10 June 2020 In 1986, President Ronald Reagan declared the rose the national flower emblem of the U.S. Claire Harmeyer, Better Homes & Gardens, "6 Fascinating Facts About Roses That You Probably Didn't Know," 4 June 2020 The equivalent of a Leaping Bunny emblem for ethical mica sourcing doesn’t yet exist. Lexy Lebsack, refinery29.com, "The Makeup Industry’s Darkest Secret Is Hiding In Your Makeup Bag," 31 May 2020 The Galvins seemed to embody American optimism, an emblem of the bountiful American century. Sam Dolnick, New York Times, "Good Looks Ran in the Family. So Did Schizophrenia.," 3 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'emblem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of emblem


circa 1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1584, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for emblem


borrowed from Middle French & New Latin; Middle French embleme "symbolic image typically accompanied by a motto and a verse exposition (books of which constituted a literary genre in the Renaissance)," borrowed from New Latin emblēmat-, emblēma, going back to Latin, "inlaid pavement, inlaid relief on the inside of a metal bowl or other vessel," borrowed from Greek emblēmat-, émblēma "something inserted (as a shaft into a spearhead), relief ornament decorating silver plate," from emblē-, stem in noun derivation of embállein "to drop or place in, throw into, insert," from em-, variant of en- en- entry 2 before a labial + bállein "to reach by throwing, cast, strike, put, place" — more at devil entry 1

Note: The use of Latin emblēma in reference to a combination of symbolic image and text is apparently owed to the Italian jurist and scholar Andrea Anciato (1492-1550), who gave rise to the emblem book genre with his Emblematum liber (Augsburg, 1531). The semantic gap between the literal meaning of the word and Alciati's use of it has yet to be fully explained. Pace the comments by John F. Moffitt (Andrea Alciati, A Book of Emblems: The Emblematum Liber in Latin and English [Jefferson, NC: 2004], introduction, p. 7), neither Cicero, Quintilian, nor Coelius Rodiginus provide any definite basis for the meaning given emblēma by Alciati.


derivative of emblem entry 1

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Time Traveler for emblem

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The first known use of emblem was in 1584

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Last Updated

22 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Emblem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emblem. Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for emblem


How to pronounce emblem (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of emblem

: an object or picture used to suggest a thing that cannot be shown
: a person or thing that represents an idea


em·​blem | \ ˈem-bləm How to pronounce emblem (audio) \

Kids Definition of emblem

: an object or an image used to suggest a thing that cannot be pictured The flag is the emblem of our nation.

Choose the Right Synonym for emblem

emblem, symbol, and token mean a visible thing that stands for something that cannot be pictured. emblem is usually used of an object or a picture that stands for a group such as a family, an organization, or a nation. The eagle is one of our national emblems. symbol may be used of anything that is understood as a sign for something else. The lion is the symbol of courage. token is used of an object or act that shows the existence of something else. This gift is a token of our love.

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More from Merriam-Webster on emblem

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for emblem

Spanish Central: Translation of emblem

Nglish: Translation of emblem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of emblem for Arabic Speakers

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