[ sim-buh-liz-uhm ]
See synonyms for symbolism on
  1. the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.

  2. a set or system of symbols.

  1. symbolic meaning or character.

  2. the principles and practice of symbolists in art or literature.

  3. (initial capital letter) a movement of the late 19th century in French art and literature.: Compare symbolist (defs. 3b, 4b).

  4. the use of any of certain special figures or marks of identification to signify a religious message or divine being, as the cross for Christ and the Christian faith.

Origin of symbolism

First recorded in 1645–55; symbol + -ism

Words Nearby symbolism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use symbolism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for symbolism


/ (ˈsɪmbəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. the representation of something in symbolic form or the attribution of symbolic meaning or character to something

  2. a system of symbols or symbolic representation

  1. a symbolic significance or quality

  2. (often capital) a late 19th-century movement in art that sought to express mystical or abstract ideas through the symbolic use of images: See also synthetism

  3. theol any symbolist interpretation of the Eucharist

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