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[sim-bol-ik] /sɪmˈbɒl ɪk/
serving as a symbol of something (often followed by of).
of, relating to, or expressed by a symbol.
characterized by or involving the use of symbols:
a highly symbolic poem.
(in semantics, especially formerly) pertaining to a class of words that express only relations.
Compare notional (def 7).
Computers. expressed in characters, usually nonnumeric, that require translation before they can be used (opposed to absolute).
Sometimes, symbolical (for defs 1–4)
Origin of symbolic
1650-60; < Late Latin symbolicus < Greek symbolikós. See symbol, -ic
Related forms
symbolically, adverb
symbolicalness, noun
nonsymbolic, adjective
nonsymbolical, adjective
nonsymbolically, adverb
nonsymbolicalness, noun
unsymbolic, adjective
unsymbolical, adjective
unsymbolically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for symbolic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Here, perhaps, may be found the symbolic clue to the strife's cause.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • I was a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age.

    De Profundis Oscar Wilde
  • Byron was a symbolic figure, but his relations were to the passion of his age and its weariness of passion.

    De Profundis Oscar Wilde
  • I have said of myself that I was one who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age.

    De Profundis Oscar Wilde
  • She would meet him at that symbolic bough: there be rendered the Judgment of the Years!

    Bride of the Mistletoe James Lane Allen
British Dictionary definitions for symbolic


of or relating to a symbol or symbols
serving as a symbol
characterized by the use of symbols or symbolism
Derived Forms
symbolically, adverb
symbolicalness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for symbolic

c.1600 (implied in symbolically); see symbol + -ic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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