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

It was opened to the public for a concert on the most symbolic of days: Feb. 22, 1926, which would have been George Washington’s 194th birthday. Detroit Free Press, "Tour offers a peek inside Detroit's Masonic Temple," 17 June 2018 The Episcopal Methodists, under Bishop Ernest Lynn Waldorf, were leading the charge with big and symbolic plans for Lincoln and Lee University. Darryl Levings, kansascity, "Before UMKC, there were dreams of a Lincoln and Lee university," 15 June 2018 In terms of sheer financial scale and symbolic import, none of the three cases compares with the investigation into the more than $2 billion in contracts Netanyahu’s government has awarded to ThyssenKrupp. Matthew Campbell,, "Benjamin Netanyahu Could Be Heading for a Fifth Term. Or to Court," 14 June 2018 Universities across the country have been grappling with student demands to rename buildings honoring founders and other leaders whose segregationist views many consider to be offensive and symbolic of hatred and division. Karen Herzog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "KKK controversy at UW-Madison heats up, with family of prestigious alumnus upset by accusation of racism," 10 May 2018 Then comes perhaps the most symbolic moment for the president: a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. Alexander Smith /, NBC News, "Trump in Britain: President faces dozens of protests across U.K.," 13 July 2018 Any symbolic victory for the British is far harder to discern. Ian Bremmer, Time, "The United Kingdom’s ‘Brexit Dream’ has Become a Waking Nightmare," 12 July 2018 The Senate voted resoundingly Wednesday to seek a congressional role in some of President Trump’s tariff decisions, a symbolic rebuke reflecting growing GOP alarm over the president’s trade war. Erica Werner,, "In symbolic rebuke, Senate votes for a congressional role in Trump’s tariff decisions," 11 July 2018 But, just like in Season 1, the producers and the Fab Five pick heartwarming, symbolic moments over deep self-reflection. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Too much, too soon? 'Queer Eye' and reality shows that return too quickly," 15 June 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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Phrases Related to symbolic

symbolic gesture

Statistics for symbolic

Last Updated

9 Sep 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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