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 Apple's original AirPods have emerged as a surprise status symbol and a runaway hit at a time when Apple desperately needed one to offset an ongoing decline in iPhone sales. Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN, "AirPods Pro: A $249 product so good you're willing to risk losing it," 1 Nov. 2019 But those figures nearly doubled each year as the Asian nation’s growing middle class latched onto the exotic and newfound status symbol. Rachel Siegel, Washington Post, "China loves Maine lobster, but Trump’s trade war means Canada is filling the demand," 1 Nov. 2019 Farther into the village a mansion gleams like a moonstone from behind tall gates, its driveway furnished with a red SUV and patrolled by an Alsatian dog, a status symbol in this part of India. The Economist, "In the ring with India’s most powerful woman," 25 Oct. 2019 But, of course, a maximum contract is an NBA status symbol., "Jayson Tatum is next Celtic in line for huge payday - The Boston Globe," 24 Oct. 2019 Initially seen as an aspirational status symbol among some affluent loyalists, Apple began losing ground to more affordable competitors a few years ago. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, "Is Apple ready for revival in India?," 19 Oct. 2019 Feeding the addiction becomes even more challenging in a top-heavy economy where the price tags of the status symbols keep adding zeros. Alex Williams, New York Times, "Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?," 18 Oct. 2019 And while Apple has succeeded in turning its white, dangly AirPods into a status symbol, truly wireless earbuds are gaining popularity in spite of, not because of, their design. The Washington Post, The Denver Post, "AirPod rivals give consumers an earful as they try to catch up to Apple," 13 Oct. 2019 More telling was the inadvertent revelation of the latest status symbol reserved for the one percent: enlightenment. Mike Albo, Town & Country, "How Spiritual Snobs Became the New One Percent," 26 Sep. 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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Statistics for symbol

Last Updated

16 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for symbol

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

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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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