sym·​bol | \ˈsim-bəl \

Definition of symbol 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an authoritative summary of faith or doctrine : creed

2 : something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance especially : a visible sign of something invisible the lion is a symbol of courage

3 : an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing or printing relating to a particular field to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities

4 : an object or act representing something in the unconscious mind that has been repressed phallic symbols

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


symboled or symbolled; symboling or symbolling

Definition of symbol (Entry 2 of 2)

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Synonyms for symbol

Synonyms: Noun

emblem, ensign, hallmark, impresa, logo, totem, trademark

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Examples of symbol in a Sentence


the traditional physician's symbol of a staff entwined with a snake the symbol ¶ indicates where a new paragraph should begin

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And for those who had a challenging pregnancy or whose babies were stillborn, the jewelry can be an especially meaningful symbol. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Umbilical Cord Jewelry Is Apparently a Thing, and It's Surprisingly Chic," 7 Nov. 2018 In addition, according to's exclusive royal wedding expert and bridal designer Caroline Castigliano, there were symbols woven into Princess Eugenie's wedding dress. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "Princess Eugenie Walked Down the Aisle in a Peter Pilotto Wedding Gown," 12 Oct. 2018 The tennis bracelet is a timeless symbol of elegance. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "How Chris Evert's US Open Match Gave the Tennis Bracelet Its Name," 6 Sep. 2018 Players like u/ulus10 are hoping that the textures on the cube are symbols of some sort that players can decipher: Likely, the event will continue to unfold throughout the weekend as the end of the season ramps up. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Fortnite’s lightning rift has created a purple interdimensional cube," 24 Aug. 2018 The basket is now a symbol of hope, renewal and promise. Patrick Z. Mcgavin, Aurora Beacon-News, "Guide to outdoor dining in Chicago suburbs: Endiro Coffee in Aurora," 6 July 2018 The Statue of Liberty has long been a welcoming symbol for immigrants and refugees coming to the US. Jennifer Peltz And Jake Pearson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Protester climbs up Statue of Liberty in defense of border families," 5 July 2018 For previous generations, access to a car and a driver’s license were the ultimate symbols of freedom. Aubrey Nagle,, "Five dead in Annapolis shooting, Philly heat wave arrives as some 'hoods get hotter | Morning Newsletter," 29 June 2018 South Florida's city halls are civic symbols as hubs of government activity. Lisa J. Huriash,, "Oakland Park prepares for new City Hall, downtown," 27 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

To me that demonstrated the central role that symbols play in the culture. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "Why Americans Flocked to Catch a Glimpse of Hitler’s Car," 16 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'symbol.' 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 symbol


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for symbol


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

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Statistics for symbol

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for symbol

The first known use of symbol was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for symbol



English Language Learners Definition of symbol

: an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

: a letter, group of letters, character, or picture that is used instead of a word or group of words


sym·​bol | \ˈsim-bəl \

Kids Definition of symbol

1 : something that stands for something else : emblem The eagle is a symbol of the United States.

2 : a letter, character, or sign used instead of a word to represent a quantity, position, relationship, direction, or something to be done The sign + is the symbol for addition.


sym·​bol | \ˈsim-bəl \

Medical Definition of symbol 

: something that stands for or suggests something else: as

a : an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing or printing relating to a particular field to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities

b : an object or act representing something in the unconscious mind that has been repressed phallic symbols

Other Words from symbol

symbolic \sim-​ˈbäl-​ik \ adjective
symbolically \-​i-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on symbol

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with symbol

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for symbol

Spanish Central: Translation of symbol

Nglish: Translation of symbol for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of symbol for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about symbol

Comments on symbol

What made you want to look up symbol? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

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