sym·​bol·​ism | \ ˈsim-bə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce symbolism (audio) \

Definition of symbolism

1 : the art or practice of using symbols especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations: such as
a : artistic imitation or invention that is a method of revealing or suggesting immaterial, ideal, or otherwise intangible truth or states
b : the use of conventional or traditional signs in the representation of divine beings and spirits
2 : a system of symbols or representations

Examples of symbolism in a Sentence

The story was filled with religious symbolism.
Recent Examples on the Web This dense symbolism would be heavy-handed if not for James’ wry and intimate narration, which remains close to the bone and heart of its characters. Lauren Leblanc, Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 2022 In a speech heavy on symbolism and history, Biden pledged to work to change Senate filibuster rules and pass a package of voter rights bills that advocates say is essential for protecting the rights of voters of color. Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2022 And in this version of Black suffering, in this hokey and too-easy symbolism, there is a danger in being a witness, in seeing such continuous torment. Jason Parham, Wired, 30 Apr. 2021 The symbolism of the gesture was clear as Mr. Modi and some of his ministers traveled to Palli to hail what the government said would be the first of many carbon-neutral villages across India, thanks to the solar plant. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2022 But the symbolism of the two leaders next to the Sept. 11, 2001, memorial was clear — a reminder of the only time the alliance’s mutual defense provision has ever been invoked. Eli Stokolsstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 23 Mar. 2022 There was obvious symbolism in a place where the new economy was developing on top of the old; the pale-blue warehouse spread out next to the sooty brown towers of the dying power station. Sarah O'connor, Ars Technica, 19 Mar. 2022 Sure, Congress found backdoor ways to fund its main provisions, but the symbolism of its fall from the books wasn’t to be missed. Philip Elliott, Time, 16 Mar. 2022 While revenues from Russia are minor for diversified global media companies, the symbolism of halting movie releases and suspending programming is major. Brian Stelter, CNN, 9 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'symbolism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of symbolism

1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for symbolism

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The first known use of symbolism was in 1654

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Symbolism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for symbolism


sym·​bol·​ism | \ ˈsim-bə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce symbolism (audio) \

Kids Definition of symbolism

1 : the use of symbols to represent an idea or quality The story was filled with symbolism.
2 : the meaning of a symbol What is the symbolism of the lion and lamb in this picture?


sym·​bol·​ism | \ ˈsim-bə-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce symbolism (audio) \

Medical Definition of symbolism

: the art or practice of using symbols especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible by means of visible or sensuous representations

More from Merriam-Webster on symbolism

Nglish: Translation of symbolism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of symbolism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about symbolism


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