sym·​bol | \ ˈsim-bəl How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

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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Examples of symbol in a Sentence

Noun 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 As my colleague Naomi Elegant eloquently writes, it’s proven to be both a symbol of protection—and a lighting rod for fear. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Vertex CEO takes an earnings victory lap right before he exits," 1 Feb. 2020 The transgender symbol and a transgender flag, which has light pink and blue stripes, are two of the 117 new icons. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Transgender flag emoji and other inclusive icons will be available in 2020," 30 Jan. 2020 But perhaps the most indelible symbol of Chiefs fandom is one that unifies believers and divides others: the tomahawk chop. John Eligon, New York Times, "Celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chop Divides," 29 Jan. 2020 By 2016, Pepe the Frog was an online hate symbol, a racist, beswastikaed nightmare creature beloved by digital white supremacists. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, "Pepe the Frog Foretold the Fraught World of Modern Memes," 27 Jan. 2020 This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation but now is a symbol for change. Paul Grein, Billboard, "The Best Acceptance Speeches From Musicians In Oscar History," 24 Jan. 2020 The game is played with tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols, and each player starts with 13 tiles. Popular Science, "Classic international games to add to your collection," 16 Jan. 2020 The Hermès Birkin bag One symbol of global eliteness that has been embraced by super-rich Indian women is the Hermès Birkin bag. Parul Bhandari, Quartz India, "How Delhi’s super-rich housewives strive to be part of a global elite," 9 Jan. 2020 In this system, the # symbol is an outsider that acts to just direct the flow of language without being part of the words or alphabet. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Made the World's First Chemical Turing Machine," 9 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Unicode Consortium—the organization in charge of determining which symbols our devices are supposed to recognize—has more and more been measuring the wrong thing in the process of approving new emoji. Wired, "New Emoji Are So Boring—but They Don't Have to Be," 8 Nov. 2019 Drawing route cards and placing trains remains the same, but most tracks on the board that connect two cities also have one or more railroad company symbols next to them. Keith Law, Ars Technica, "Ranked: Every Ticket to Ride map," 12 Oct. 2019 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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Time Traveler for symbol

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for symbol

Last Updated

9 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Symbol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for symbol


How to pronounce symbol (audio)

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 How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

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 How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

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 How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \ adjective
symbolically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce symbolically (audio) \ adverb

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