sym·​bol·​ic sim-ˈbä-lik How to pronounce symbolic (audio)
variants or less commonly symbolical
: using, employing, or exhibiting a symbol
: consisting of or proceeding by means of symbols
: of, relating to, or constituting a symbol
: characterized by or terminating in symbols
symbolic thinking
: characterized by symbolism
a symbolic dance
symbolically adverb

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 action is likely to have little more than symbolic impact for the singer, who lives in Ukraine. Ivan Nechepurenko, New York Times, 20 Nov. 2023 The underground setting of the presentation seemed symbolic. Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 14 Nov. 2023 The Biden bear hug isn’t just symbolic, officials say, and the decision to unwaveringly back Israel is coming from the top. Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2023 For much of the summer his presence here would be mostly symbolic, and that’s not how anyone in the organization wants to remember their forever warrior. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2023 House Republicans this week moved to cut the salary of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to $1 in a largely symbolic move unlikely to be passed. Virginia Chamlee, Peoplemag, 9 Nov. 2023 In a largely symbolic move, stockholders holding 20,442,308 shares voted against the pay package, while those holding 19,565,042 voted for it. Caitlin Huston, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Nov. 2023 Last year, most participants of Seoul Learn entered good universities and so this is a symbolic example of our going together with the socially neglected. Charlie Campbell, TIME, 12 Nov. 2023 So the dispute has become symbolic and may be resolved by how much or how little each side can live with. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'symbolic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of symbolic was in 1610

Dictionary Entries Near symbolic

Cite this Entry

“Symbolic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


sym·​bol·​ic sim-ˈbäl-ik How to pronounce symbolic (audio)
variants also symbolical
: of, relating to, or using symbols or symbolism
a symbolic meaning
symbolic art
: having the function or meaning of a symbol
symbolically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on symbolic

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