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

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 In the end, Beyoncé’s symbolism works only because of the art itself: the thoughtful choreography, the committed execution, the moments of humor and subtlety. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Beyoncé Masters the Fierceness of Crowds," 16 Apr. 2018 After the United States announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in June 2017, Earth Hour’s symbolism is more important than ever before. Emily Shippee, Teen Vogue, "Powerful Photos from Earth Hour 2018," 26 Mar. 2018 Horror has long used its tropes as modes of commentary and symbolism to tell deeper stories than their chilling surface spectacles. Laura Bradley, HWD, "The Terror Season 2 Could Be One of 2019’s Most Important Shows," 22 June 2018 Summit meetings are a combination of symbolism and substance. Author: Dan Balz, Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: Summit’s outcome rests on substance, not symbolism," 12 June 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

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for symbolism

The first known use of symbolism was in 1654

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More Definitions for symbolism



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

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


a magnificent or impressive array

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