sym·​bol | \ ˈsim-bəl How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

Definition of symbol

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an authoritative summary of faith or doctrine : creed
2 : something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance especially : a visible sign of something invisible the lion is a symbol of courage
3 : an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing or printing relating to a particular field to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities
4 : an object or act representing something in the unconscious mind that has been repressed phallic symbols
5 : an act, sound, or object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response


symboled or symbolled; symboling or symbolling

Definition of symbol (Entry 2 of 2)

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Examples of symbol in a Sentence

Noun the traditional physician's symbol of a staff entwined with a snake the symbol ¶ indicates where a new paragraph should begin
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Disney’s theme parks, some with Main Street U.S.A. entrances, loom large in the popular imagination as symbols of Americana. Brooks Barnes, New York Times, "Disney World Is Reopening, but You Won’t Be Able to Hug Mickey," 27 May 2020 Certain items linger in the public consciousness as symbols of this period: yellow construction helmets, 3M respirators, open umbrellas that deflected rubber bullets. Suzanne Sataline, The Atlantic, "The Challenge to China From Hong Kong's 'Sense of Country'," 21 May 2020 Shelley Luther arrived in Owosso, Mich., on Monday to back 77-year-old Karl Manke, who has attracted national attention as a symbol of resistance after reopening his barbershop despite Whitmer’s shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Fox News, "Dallas salon owner backs Michigan barber who had license suspended, calls Gov. Whitmer ‘tyrant’," 19 May 2020 No date has been set to reopen the 630-foot-tall arch, which was designed by Eero Saarinen and was completed in 1965 as a symbol of America's westward expansion. Curtis Tate, USA TODAY, "Which American landmarks are about to reopen, and what remains closed due to coronavirus," 14 May 2020 During the rally, nine people lay motionless in the street, clutching flowers as a symbol of the homeless residents who could die during the pandemic, Stone said. Anna Bauman,, "Protesters hold ‘die-in’ outside Mayor Breed’s house over hotel rooms for homeless," 30 Apr. 2020 The Comfort’s arrival in New York March 30 was heralded as the symbol of a military mobilization against the virus outbreak. Nancy A. Youssef, WSJ, "USNS Comfort Plans Departure, Signaling Military’s Waning Coronavirus Role," 24 Apr. 2020 Then, as in 1945, the mama duck was seen as a symbol of hope for Milwaukeeans. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "When times were tough during World War II, a duck named Gertie helped Milwaukee find hope," 22 Apr. 2020 Then each family member poured sand into the vases as a symbol of what each family member has contributed to the kids’ life and development. Carol Robinson |, al, "‘It was the best day’: Dying Alabama father walks 10-year-old daughter down the aisle," 9 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Unicode Consortium—the organization in charge of determining which symbols our devices are supposed to recognize—has more and more been measuring the wrong thing in the process of approving new emoji. Wired, "New Emoji Are So Boring—but They Don't Have to Be," 8 Nov. 2019 Drawing route cards and placing trains remains the same, but most tracks on the board that connect two cities also have one or more railroad company symbols next to them. Keith Law, Ars Technica, "Ranked: Every Ticket to Ride map," 12 Oct. 2019 To me that demonstrated the central role that symbols play in the culture. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "Why Americans Flocked to Catch a Glimpse of Hitler’s Car," 16 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'symbol.' 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 symbol


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1832, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for symbol


in sense 1, from Late Latin symbolum, from Late Greek symbolon, from Greek, token, sign; in other senses from Latin symbolum token, sign, symbol, from Greek symbolon, literally, token of identity verified by comparing its other half, from symballein to throw together, compare, from syn- + ballein to throw — more at devil

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Time Traveler for symbol

Time Traveler

The first known use of symbol was in the 15th century

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Statistics for symbol

Last Updated

31 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Symbol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for symbol


How to pronounce symbol (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of symbol

: an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality
: a letter, group of letters, character, or picture that is used instead of a word or group of words


sym·​bol | \ ˈsim-bəl How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

Kids Definition of symbol

1 : something that stands for something else : emblem The eagle is a symbol of the United States.
2 : a letter, character, or sign used instead of a word to represent a quantity, position, relationship, direction, or something to be done The sign + is the symbol for addition.


sym·​bol | \ ˈsim-bəl How to pronounce symbol (audio) \

Medical Definition of symbol

: something that stands for or suggests something else: as
a : an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing or printing relating to a particular field to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities
b : an object or act representing something in the unconscious mind that has been repressed phallic symbols

Other Words from symbol

symbolic \ sim-​ˈbäl-​ik How to pronounce symbolic (audio) \ adjective
symbolically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce symbolically (audio) \ adverb

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