sym·​bol·​ic | \ sim-ˈbä-lik How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly symbolical \ sim-​ˈbä-​li-​kəl How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \

Definition of symbolic

1a : using, employing, or exhibiting a symbol
b : consisting of or proceeding by means of symbols
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a symbol
3 : characterized by or terminating in symbols symbolic thinking
4 : characterized by symbolism a symbolic dance

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Other Words from symbolic

symbolically \ sim-​ˈbä-​li-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for symbolic



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Examples of symbolic in a Sentence

The lighting of the candles is symbolic. The sharing of the wine has symbolic meaning.
Recent Examples on the Web Michael Whatley, the state party chairman, said the central committee's decision serves as a symbolic gesture of the party's opposition to Burr's action. Bryan Anderson, Star Tribune, "NC GOP votes to censure Sen. Burr after impeachment vote," 15 Feb. 2021 One thing that’s clear is that these questions probably aren’t best arbitrated through firings or resignations freighted with symbolic meaning, or hashed out inside the human resources department. New York Times, "Postcard From Peru: Why the Morality Plays Inside The Times Won’t Stop," 14 Feb. 2021 While the Valentine's Day announcement is a nice nod to love, the date actually has a deeper symbolic meaning for Prince Harry, and his late mother, Princess Diana. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Prince Charles and Camilla Are "Delighted" About Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Pregnancy," 14 Feb. 2021 How fitting that black boxes become a symbolic social gesture for allyship... Alberthe Buabeng, Good Housekeeping, "Interior Designer Alberthe Buabeng Explains Why Now's the Time for a More Inclusive Industry," 11 Feb. 2021 The many hats commonly worn in Peru have symbolic meaning. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Arts & Culture Newsletter: Danielle LoPresti’s ‘love letter to the world’," 21 Jan. 2021 In an almost profanely symbolic gesture, his namesake Atlantic City casino will be imploded in a few weeks (though the auction for the rights to push the button has been called off). Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Trump Called Himself the ‘Builder President.’ But What Did He Actually Build?," 20 Jan. 2021 Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t even the first game to make this symbolic gesture. Hallie Lieberman, Wired, "Cyberpunk 2077 and the Meaning of Its Deadly Dildos," 21 Dec. 2020 Two high-profile US officials visited Taiwan in the space of two months, in a symbolic show of support by the Trump administration. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "China is doubling down on its territorial claims and that's causing conflict across Asia," 26 Sep. 2020

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

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for symbolic

Time Traveler

The first known use of symbolic was in 1610

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Statistics for symbolic

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Symbolic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for symbolic



English Language Learners Definition of symbolic

: expressing or representing an idea or quality without using words
: relating to or being used as a symbol
: using symbols


sym·​bol·​ic | \ sim-ˈbä-lik How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \
variants: also symbolical \ -​li-​kəl \

Kids Definition of symbolic

: of, relating to, or using symbols or symbolism Lighting the candles has a symbolic meaning.

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