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symbol

[sim-buh l]
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noun
  1. something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
  2. a letter, figure, or other character or mark or a combination of letters or the like used to designate something: the algebraic symbol x; the chemical symbol Au.
  3. (especially in semiotics) a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized, as being part of that which is symbolized, and as performing its normal function of standing for or representing that which is symbolized: usually conceived as deriving its meaning chiefly from the structure in which it appears, and generally distinguished from a sign.
verb (used with object), sym·boled, sym·bol·ing or (especially British) sym·bolled, sym·bol·ling.
  1. to use symbols; symbolize.

Origin of symbol

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin symbolum < Greek sýmbolon sign, equivalent to sym- sym- + -bolon, neuter for bolḗ (feminine) a throw
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for symbols

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Above his head are the three symbols of the Moon, the Sun, and the planet Venus.

  • But, tonight, he was not seeing these symbols of material superiority.

    Dust

    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • Knitted, in her own stitches and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • These things we have passed by reverently, as symbols of a people's trust in its kind.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Every alternate page was in the phonetic Indian symbols, of which more hereafter.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White


British Dictionary definitions for symbols

symbol

noun
  1. something that represents or stands for something else, usually by convention or association, esp a material object used to represent something abstract
  2. an object, person, idea, etc, used in a literary work, film, etc, to stand for or suggest something else with which it is associated either explicitly or in some more subtle way
  3. a letter, figure, or sign used in mathematics, science, music, etc to represent a quantity, phenomenon, operation, function, etc
  4. psychoanal the end product, in the form of an object or act, of a conflict in the unconscious between repression processes and the actions and thoughts being repressedthe symbols of dreams
  5. psychol any mental process that represents some feature of external reality
verb -bols, -bolling or -bolled or US -bols, -boling or -boled
  1. (tr) another word for symbolize

Word Origin

C15: from Church Latin symbolum, from Greek sumbolon sign, from sumballein to throw together, from syn- + ballein to throw
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

Word Origin and History for symbols

symbol

n.

early 15c., "creed, summary, religious belief," from Late Latin symbolum "creed, token, mark," from Greek symbolon "token, watchword" (applied c.250 by Cyprian of Carthage to the Apostles' Creed, on the notion of the "mark" that distinguishes Christians from pagans), literally "that which is thrown or cast together," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + bole "a throwing, a casting, the stroke of a missile, bolt, beam," from bol-, nominative stem of ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).

The sense evolution in Greek is from "throwing things together" to "contrasting" to "comparing" to "token used in comparisons to determine if something is genuine." Hence, "outward sign" of something. The meaning "something which stands for something else" first recorded 1590 (in "Faerie Queene").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

symbols in Medicine

symbol

([object Object])
n.
  1. Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.
  2. A printed or written sign used to represent an operation, an element, a quantity, or a relation, as in mathematics or chemistry.
  3. A conventional sign.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

symbols in Science

symbol

[sĭmbəl]
  1. A conventional, printed or written figure used to represent an operation, element, quantity, relation, unit of measurement, phenomenon, or descriptor. Also called sign
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

symbols in Culture

symbol

An object or name that stands for something else, especially a material thing that stands for something that is not material. The bald eagle is a symbol of the United States of America. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. The Star of David is a symbol of Judaism.

symbol

An object or name that stands for something else, especially a material thing that stands for something that is not material. The bald eagle is a symbol of the United States of America. The cross is a symbol of Christianity. The Star of David is a symbol of Judaism.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with symbols

symbols

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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