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 The Confederate flag is a symbol of many things, Preleski said, but in this context it’s being used as an instrument to intimidate and harass. David Owens,, "‘I’m afraid because I’m black.’ Connecticut man ordered to take down Confederate flag after waging harassment campaign against neighbors," 25 Nov. 2019 The lion was a symbol of royal authority [but] lion imagery was also used in objects of daily life, such as chairs and beds. Antoaneta Roussi, National Geographic, "Very rare lion mummies discovered in Egypt," 23 Nov. 2019 The SEAL Trident pin or Special Warfare Insignia is a symbol of membership in the SEALs. NBC News, "Navy secretary strongly considering resigning over Trump's meddling in SEAL case," 23 Nov. 2019 The movement has featured women with a red hand print over their mouths, in what activists say is a symbol of the silencing of indigenous women. Author: Michael Balsamo, Felicia Fonseca, Anchorage Daily News, "U.S. attorney general unveils plan to tackle crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans," 23 Nov. 2019 In the photos, Marian is the symbol of boldness and strength. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "8-year-old girl who was turned away from school's picture day over red hair extensions gets empowering photo shoot," 20 Nov. 2019 The ability to ask the boss any question in a timely fashion was a powerful symbol of employee empowerment. Wired, "Google Shakes Up Its 'TGIF'—and Ends Its Culture of Openness," 19 Nov. 2019 Dolan and her husband, Patrick, live nearby, and the grave is a symbol of peace and reflection for them. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'We are heartbroken': More than 200 vases valued at $80K were stolen from Pinelawn Memorial Park in Wauwatosa," 13 Nov. 2019 Developer Rick Foran has said his project is intended to be a symbol of neighborhood revival in the wake of those crimes. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Mayor Frank Jackson OKs tax incentives to convert factory near Ariel Castro site into symbol of neighborhood revival," 12 Nov. 2019 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

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Symbol.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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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the study of flags

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