sym·​bol·​ic | \sim-ˈbä-lik \
variants: or less commonly symbolical \ sim-​ˈbä-​li-​kəl \

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 \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for symbolic


emblematic (also emblematical), representational, representative



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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

The new bill proposed by the three black senators — Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — is largely symbolic, as lynchings are seemingly part of the nation’s past. Erin B. Logan, Washington Post, "Why Congress failed nearly 200 times to make lynching a federal crime," 5 July 2018 For Croatians, the scene was highly symbolic, but there were other incidents in the year before Croatia's 1991-1995 independence war with rebel Serbs backed by Belgrade. Lajla Veselica And Nicolas Gaudichet,, "Croatia's World Cup quarterfinals run revives national pride," 5 July 2018 So getting up those stairs dressed in that dress was very symbolic. Julie Miller, HWD, "Penélope Cruz Never Wanted Her American Crime Story Experience to End," 19 June 2018 In any case, the second first pitch was perfectly symbolic. Alex Prewitt,, "The Great Wait Is Finally Over: After 13 Seasons, Alex Ovechkin Is a Stanley Cup Champion," 11 June 2018 Despite occasional eruptions of bloodshed, the war has been dormant for 65 years, so any treaty would be mostly symbolic, said Bong Youngshik, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Yonsei University. CBS News, "Can Trump and Kim end the 68-year-old Korean War?," 9 June 2018 So the numerical goal of 60,000 digital subscribers is somewhat symbolic. Lauren Gustus, sacbee, "Here's our plan for sustainable local news at the Sac Bee," 8 June 2018 In many ways, the defeat was more symbolic than substantive; the Senate wasn’t passing a farm bill with those work requirements anyway. David Dayen, The New Republic, "A Fitting End to Paul Ryan’s Fraudulent Political Career," 22 May 2018 The timing of Monday’s events was deeply symbolic to Israel and the Palestinians., "55 Palestinians killed, hundreds wounded from Israeli fire amid embassy move," 15 May 2018

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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Statistics for symbolic

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for symbolic

The first known use of symbolic was in 1610

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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 \
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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Comments on symbolic

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