[sim-buh-liz-uh m]


the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.
a set or system of symbols.
symbolic meaning or character.
the principles and practice of symbolists in art or literature.
(initial capital letter) a movement of the late 19th century in French art and literature.Compare symbolist(defs 3b, 4b).
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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for symbolisms

Historical Examples of symbolisms

  • The symbolisms which Protestantism introduced were few and easily understood.

  • It has left out of account the "Unconscious" and its symbolisms.


    Robert S. Woodworth

  • Your use of the statues as symbolisms of their period is masterly.

    The Spell

    William Dana Orcutt

  • It is possible that this fable only symbolisms the introduction of sails in navigation.

  • The Bible contains many references to the importance and symbolisms of light and fire.

    Artificial Light

    M. Luckiesh

British Dictionary definitions for symbolisms



the representation of something in symbolic form or the attribution of symbolic meaning or character to something
a system of symbols or symbolic representation
a symbolic significance or quality
(often capital) a late 19th-century movement in art that sought to express mystical or abstract ideas through the symbolic use of imagesSee also synthetism
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

Word Origin and History for symbolisms



1650s, "practice of representing things with symbols," from symbol + -ism. Attested from 1892 as a movement in French literature that aimed at representing ideas and emotions by indirect suggestion rather than direct expression; rejecting realism and naturalism, it attached symbolic meaning to certain objects, words, etc. French symboliste was coined by poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) in 1885.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for symbolisms




A mental state in which everything that happens is regarded by the individual as symbolic of his or her own thoughts.
The disguised representation in conscious thought of unconscious or repressed contents or events.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.