sym·bol·ism | \ˈsim-bə-ˌli-zəm \

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

The Spurs announced the promotion with a simple three paragraph press release, but the symbolism of the move to a high-profile spot on the bench was not lost on women in San Antonio and around the nation. Tom Orsborn, San Antonio Express-News, "Spurs promote Hammon to the front row," 27 June 2018 Aster’s Hereditary is a dense, European-inspired work full of symbolism and an encroaching feeling of dread that slowly suffocates any hope that things might work out OK. Jacob Oller, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'Hereditary' Flips Steven Spielberg's Trademark Shot," 10 June 2018 Stephen Noerper, Korea Society Senior Director, also joined to talk through the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in that was high on symbolism and short on details., "Bernie Sanders Wants to Hire You," 4 May 2018 How’s this for symbolism: Last month, the board approved $9 million in midyear cuts to this year’s budget to help solve a $15.1 million deficit. Otis R. Taylor Jr., San Francisco Chronicle, "Those ‘symbolic’ raises Oakland school board gave itself really stink," 15 Jan. 2018 There’s symbolism in Wentz taking the first snap, too. Zach Berman,, "What is Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham trying to improve in 2018? | Early Birds," 1 June 2018 The symbolism of the rematch will be hard to ignore. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Mellinger Minutes: Whit not an All-Star (?), Jeff Long and KU, Chiefs fears, Odom's crossroads," 10 July 2018 While everyone was ogling at all the symbolism at the Met Gala last night, Kirsten Dunst welcomed her first cherub with fiancé Jesse Plemons. Rebecca Farley,, "Kirsten Dunst & Jesse Plemons Welcome Their First Child," 8 May 2018 Both leaders noted the intentional symbolism of their visit to the building site at a time when Europe is being reshaped. Washington Post, "Germany’s Merkel appears open to compromise on EU reforms," 19 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of symbolism

1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for symbolism

Last Updated

25 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for symbolism

The first known use of symbolism was in 1654

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English Language Learners Definition of symbolism

: the use of symbols to express or represent ideas or qualities in literature, art, etc.

: the particular idea or quality that is expressed by a symbol


sym·bol·ism | \ˈsim-bə-ˌli-zəm \

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 \

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

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Comments on symbolism

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