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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from symbolic

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for symbolic


emblematic (also emblematical), representational, representative



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Holmes says Meghan's choice to go barehanded is also symbolic of her wanting to connect with the public. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "The Reason Meghan Markle Holds Her Gloves But Doesn't Actually Wear Them," 2 Feb. 2019 Things get confusing when the Roc Nation signee freakishly rips off his right arm and leg, which is symbolic of the crippling effect capitalism has on American citizens. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "J. Cole Focuses On Society's Ills in Trippy New 'ATM' Video," 20 Apr. 2018 It is noted for its symbolic design of forget-me-not flowers tied with ribbon bows and arrows representing Cupid. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Two Rare Fabergé Tiaras With Ties to the Russian Royal Family Are Up for Auction," 10 Apr. 2019 In a show this symbolic, the devil is in the details — and the lipstick. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," 5 Apr. 2019 Costly gestures with unclear impacts aren’t a good place to encourage symbolic stands. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "“Impact investment” funds advertise great returns and social impacts. They aren’t delivering.," 18 Dec. 2018 Originally a single purpose shock site, Goatse has turned into a symbolic meme, a way to turn any vaguely circular image into something unspeakably filthy. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "Celebrated artist Richard Serra has been making Goatses his entire career," 23 Sep. 2018 Humans haven't returned to deep space since, so there is symbolic power there. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "SpaceX says its BFR will fly someone around the Moon; we have questions," 14 Sep. 2018 The company's use of air—as opposed to stones, which have been more traditionally used in the softening of tough fabrics like linen—is not just symbolic. Amanda Sims, House Beautiful, "Snowe’s New Linen Sheets Are Literally Air-Whipped for Fluffiness," 27 Feb. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of symbolic

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about symbolic

Statistics for symbolic

Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for symbolic

The first known use of symbolic was in 1610

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on symbolic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with symbolic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for symbolic

Spanish Central: Translation of symbolic

Nglish: Translation of symbolic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of symbolic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on symbolic

What made you want to look up symbolic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a device or gadget

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!