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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Synonyms for symbol

Synonyms: Noun

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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 The ashes are also a symbol of penance and are made from palm leaves that were used in last year's Palm Sunday services. Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, "Metro Detroit priests may not smudge ashes: How COVID-19 is changing Ash Wednesday," 17 Feb. 2021 In a report published Monday in the archaeological journal Antiquity, researchers Thomas Urban and Brinnen Carter detailed their research into the site, which is a symbol of Tlingit resistance to colonialization. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Researchers locate site of 200-year-old Tlingit battle fort that signified resistance to colonization," 29 Jan. 2021 Photos shared with Fox News also showed that a circle with three arrows was spray-painted on the sidewalk, a symbol often used by Antifa in protests. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Search continues for NYC vandals who targeted Republican club holiday party, put fake body bags on sidewalk," 10 Dec. 2020 The story behind the lightning bolt symbol being used in Poland’s pro-choice marches. Los Angeles Times, "Essential Arts: It’s time to redesign the electoral map," 7 Nov. 2020 The Nazi symbol, used to target Jewish people, was most prevalent. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Chaldean Catholic church vandalized with swastika graffiti," 26 Sep. 2020 In June, the platform took down an ad that displayed a symbol used by Nazis. Alissa Zhu, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Facebook is still accepting ads from President Donald Trump's campaign," 16 Sep. 2020 Johnny Guerra’s cherished belt buckles are a symbol of his love for his community and the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. Vincent T. Davis,, "East Side auto shop owner proud of service to his San Antonio community and rodeo," 25 Jan. 2021 The Guthrie song has been a symbol of equality, inclusion and unity. Felicia Fonseca,, "For some tribal members, Jennifer Lopez’s inauguration day ‘This Land is Your Land’ performance hit the wrong note," 21 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Press and hold the app icon, tap App Info (the i symbol), and tap Permissions. Julian Chokkattu, Wired, "The 11 Best New Features in Android 11," 8 Sep. 2020 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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Symbol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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

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