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

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Other Words from symbolic

symbolically \ sim-​ˈbä-​li-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce symbolically (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 The flag poles formed a background for a military field cross — a symbolic figure that features a fallen soldier's weapon stabbed into the ground, with a boot on either side and a helmet on the stock. Jeff Seidel, Detroit Free Press, "Sanford’s war memorial demolished in flood: 'A slap in the face to our veterans'," 25 May 2020 While barriers provided women with contraceptive control, the symbolic implications of these devices went far beyond control alone. Popular Science, "Why barrier contraceptives (like diaphragms) are so unpopular," 22 May 2020 Wearing a mask, or not, floats up to the realm of the purely symbolic. Matthew Sitman, The New Republic, "Why the Pandemic Is Driving Conservative Intellectuals Mad," 21 May 2020 Indicating its intent, the Senate voted 19-1 Tuesday morning, approving an identical, symbolic bill that will not advance. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska House quickly approves Gov. Dunleavy’s billion-dollar pandemic aid plan," 20 May 2020 Snow disdained the mockingjay long ago Even before Katniss became the symbolic Mockingjay, a rebel of the Capitol, Snow disliked the hybrid bird for reasons that had nothing to do with the skilled archer. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "5 things to know about 'Hunger Games' prequel book 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'," 19 May 2020 But Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, doesn’t list any business interests in China in his latest financial disclosure making the threat mainly a symbolic gesture. Paul Cobler, Dallas News, "China threatens to sanction Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, other GOP lawmakers, over coronavirus criticism," 15 May 2020 Not to mention the symbolic importance of the return of America’s pastime. Sean Gregory, Time, "Major League Baseball Is Planning a Comeback. Here's Why That Won't Be Easy," 13 May 2020 For symbolic reasons, de Gaulle was eager for those troops under General Philippe Leclerc to enter Paris before the Americans. Phil Davison,, "Cécile Rol-Tanguy, who helped liberate Paris from the Nazis, dies at 101," 13 May 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

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Symbolic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce symbolic (audio)

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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