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[sim-buh-list] /ˈsɪm bə lɪst/
a person who uses symbols or symbolism.
a person versed in the study or interpretation of symbols.
  1. a writer who seeks to express or evoke emotions, ideas, etc., by stressing the symbolic value of language, to which is ascribed a capacity for communicating otherwise inexpressible visions of reality.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) a member of a group of chiefly French and Belgian poets of the latter part of the 19th century who sought to evoke aesthetic emotions by emphasizing the associative character of verbal, often private, images or by using synesthetic devices, as vowel sounds, presumably evocative of color.
Fine Arts.
  1. an artist who seeks to symbolize or suggest ideas or emotions by the objects represented, the colors used, etc.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) a member of a group of late 19th-century artists who rejected realism and sought to express subjective visions rather than objective reality through the use of evocative images.
(often initial capital letter) Ecclesiastical. a person who rejects the doctrine of transubstantiation and views the Eucharist symbolically.
a person who favors the use of symbols in religious services.
of or relating to symbolists or symbolism.
Origin of symbolist
First recorded in 1575-85; symbol + -ist
Related forms
symbolistic, adjective
symbolistically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for symbolist
Historical Examples
  • It was dear to the Realist, and it is dear to the symbolist.

    The Children Alice Meynell
  • The only difference is that in the French of the symbolist it precedes the noun.

    The Children Alice Meynell
  • Would a symbolist then signify a fabricator of masterpieces?

    Very Woman

    Remy de Gourmont
  • Let us remember that Shakespeare was a humanist, not a symbolist.

  • To begin with, Keble was neither a mystic nor even a symbolist.

    Essays Arthur Christopher Benson
  • The half-lights of symbolist mysticism are remote from his hard glare.

  • It seems then as if the symbolist were splitting a hair with embroidery scissors.

    The Cathedral Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • Before that, a long time ago, in symbolist circles, it was the fashion to speak with the greatest admiration of Stevenson.

  • Then comes the symbolist, and says that to his soul, which alone is certain, man is a creature with green hair and a blue face.

    Twelve Types G.K. Chesterton
  • He is at the opposite pole from the symbolist; but true poetry demands much more distinction of style and nobility of thought.

    Studies in Literature and History

    Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall
British Dictionary definitions for symbolist


a person who uses or can interpret symbols, esp as a means to revealing aspects of truth and reality
an artist or writer who practises symbolism in his work
(usually capital) a writer associated with the symbolist movement
(often capital) an artist associated with the movement of symbolism
(Christian theol) a person who rejects any interpretation of the Eucharist that suggests that Christ is really present in it, and who maintains that the bread and wine are only symbols of his body and blood
of, relating to, or characterizing symbolism or symbolists
Derived Forms
symbolistic, adjective
symbolistically, adverb
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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