See more synonyms for symbolic on
  1. serving as a symbol of something (often followed by of).
  2. of, relating to, or expressed by a symbol.
  3. characterized by or involving the use of symbols: a highly symbolic poem.
  4. (in semantics, especially formerly) pertaining to a class of words that express only relations.Compare notional(def 7).
  5. Computers. expressed in characters, usually nonnumeric, that require translation before they can be used (opposed to absolute).
Sometimes sym·bol·i·cal (for defs 1–4).

Origin of symbolic

1650–60; < Late Latin symbolicus < Greek symbolikós. See symbol, -ic
Related formssym·bol·i·cal·ly, adverbsym·bol·i·cal·ness, nounnon·sym·bol·ic, adjectivenon·sym·bol·i·cal, adjectivenon·sym·bol·i·cal·ly, adverbnon·sym·bol·i·cal·ness, nounun·sym·bol·ic, adjectiveun·sym·bol·i·cal, adjectiveun·sym·bol·i·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for symbolic

Contemporary Examples of symbolic

Historical Examples of symbolic

  • Here, perhaps, may be found the symbolic clue to the strife's cause.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • 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 was a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age.

    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



  1. of or relating to a symbol or symbols
  2. serving as a symbol
  3. characterized by the use of symbols or symbolism
Derived Formssymbolically, adverbsymbolicalness, 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

Word Origin and History for symbolic

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper