Definition of symbol in English:



  • 1A mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process, e.g. the letter or letters standing for a chemical element or a character in musical notation.

    • ‘Bengali is written in its own alphabet, which contains fifty-seven letter symbols.’
    • ‘Musical notation for instruments, based on figures, letters, or other symbols instead of conventional staff notation.’
    • ‘Three madrigals are marked by a symbol consisting of a dot with a small vertical line below it.’
    • ‘Once all bets are down, the banker rolls three six-sided dice marked with the same symbols as on the table.’
    • ‘Some have maybe only one letter and some use symbols.’
    • ‘The same is true, for instance, of the set of the basic musical symbols used in standard musical notation.’
    • ‘His contributions to algebraic symbolism were in using short Arabic words, or just their initial letters, as mathematical symbols.’
    • ‘The second cipher, which used several different symbols for each English letter in the text, was much more difficult.’
    • ‘For the first time, material that is also available for mobile phones will be marked with a special symbol.’
    • ‘Encourage students to develop their own notational system and analytical symbols.’
    • ‘Each Chinese character is identified with symbols selected from the group of ten symbol groupings.’
    • ‘The symbols were a star, a triangle, a circle, a square, and wavy lines.’
    • ‘The extra characters represent characters from foreign languages and special symbols for simple pictures.’
    • ‘Basically it's just writing using a variety of symbols, or using symbols such as letters in a variety of ways.’
    • ‘The difficult question is whether this behavior indicates that lexigrams function as symbols or names.’
    • ‘Their brevity has led to a system of text message abbreviations being devised, mixing numbers, symbols and capital letters.’
    • ‘La Route, marked by grape symbols on the map, lay there to be tamed.’
    • ‘When Henry Chadwick invented a scoring system in 1861, he developed a series of letter symbols.’
    • ‘The light revealed a great number of symbols and geometric shapes carefully carved on the floor in the farthest section of the room.’
    • ‘The outer ring had many small spaces for gems, each in the shape of the zodiac symbols.’
    sign, character, mark, letter, hieroglyph, ideogram
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A shape or sign used to represent something such as an organization, e.g. a red cross or a Star of David.
      • ‘It is inconceivable that any national or state legislature would bar a Star of David if it allowed other symbols.’
      • ‘Nazi symbols next to stars of David were used in their protests.’
      • ‘On the chest of the suit was a patch that had the symbol of the organization they represent.’
      • ‘The torso armour itself had coral shaped into the symbol of the ancient Merfolk.’
      • ‘During the First World War, the symbol of the Red Cross was seen as inviolable.’
      • ‘Every region has its own Easter bread, biscuits and cakes, often topped or shaped with Christian symbols like crosses, fish, lambs and eggs.’
      • ‘The star, called a Magen David, or Shield of David, is a symbol of the Jewish faith.’
      • ‘And soldiers who wear a cross or a Star of David must keep the symbols hidden.’
      • ‘Better yet, make it the universal symbol for the Red Cross regardless of nationality.’
      • ‘No, of course they won't be copied from traditional moko, they will reflect my own ancestry, the signs and symbols of a Scottish clan.’
      • ‘Older serigraphs do not have the trademark symbols or holographic logo directly on them.’
      • ‘I could not believe my eyes at seeing the American flag desecrated with symbols of the swastika.’
      • ‘They are green and white, and they carry their national symbol, the star and crescent, silvery bright and shiny.’
      • ‘What has made him invulnerable as patron saint, however, is his saltire symbol on our flag, the sign of our nationhood.’
      • ‘Staff Sergeant Lemieux testified that the name Hells Angels, and the death head are the main symbols of the organization.’
      • ‘Choose a simple design with mostly satin stitching - large logos, shapes or symbols are ideal.’
      • ‘The tablets can be found in any colour or shape, but are often white with a trademark symbol stamped on them.’
      • ‘The ‘green’ vans are easily recognisable as they are marked with a rainbow symbol.’
      logo, emblem, badge, stamp, trademark, crest, insignia, coat of arms, seal, figure, device, rune, logotype, logogram, monogram, hallmark, tag, flag, motto, token, motif, colophon, ideogram
      View synonyms
  • 2A thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.

    ‘the limousine was another symbol of his wealth and authority’
    • ‘Plato imagined that the first beings were shaped like globes, symbols of full-bodied wholeness.’
    • ‘In another essay, he presents the character as a symbol of the mental retardation of our society.’
    • ‘Material symbols of wealth such as luxury goods, expensive cars, and exclusive shops are visible everywhere.’
    • ‘She reinterprets history and, using new symbols, she shapes new myths.’
    • ‘Turner's watercolours are filled with visual witticisms, signs and symbols.’
    • ‘The designs used by the Dong people usually include the sun and the stars as they are symbols of good fortune.’
    • ‘As a symbol of Britain's musical worth, it's a bit of an embarrassment.’
    • ‘That the symbol of freedom was both a distant star and a symbol of the African communal past is no small irony.’
    • ‘It's very unfortunate that this mass murderer has become the symbol of a David who is standing up to a Goliath.’
    • ‘Amid the welter of sordid interests, he stood as the symbol of proud incorruptibility.’
    • ‘In a sense, stage properties like skulls and notions like funerary rituals are both historically marked signs and universal symbols.’
    • ‘Gill sees David as a symbol of an age, a city, a man and an artist.’
    • ‘They've enhanced their cities, increasing their standing, and in the process they've become symbols of renewed cultural confidence.’
    • ‘I would imagine that people who value the institution of marriage also value institutions like fidelity, and the associated signs and symbols.’
    • ‘That got him thinking about child stars as symbols for a larger malaise.’
    • ‘This applies to cases in which the religious sign is a symbol of oppression and runs counter to the dignity and freedom of its wearer.’
    • ‘His phone was also silver, a top of the range Nokia, a symbol of the material wealth modern young men can accrue if they choose life at sea.’
    • ‘The cat is for Charles Baudelaire, the poet of Les Fleurs du mal, both a sign and a symbol.’
    • ‘The Aldabra atoll stands as a rare symbol of hope and encouragement for conservation around the world.’
    • ‘The wall stood as a grim symbol of the separation of free people and those living under dictatorships.’
    emblem, token, sign, representation, figure, image, type
    View synonyms


[WITH OBJECT]archaic
  • Symbolize.

    • ‘The first was symbol of the atonement the 2nd was to symbol the carrying away of sins.’
    • ‘Craftsmen carved flowers or other patterns symboling good wishes into the doors, adding to the elegance and beauty of the dwellings.’
    • ‘Among the rarest copper coins was one of Carausius (our English Carew), with two heads on it symbolling the ambition of our native usurper to assert empire.’
    • ‘Nicole bought a silver charm bracelet with two hands on it symboling best friends.’
    represent, be a symbol of, stand for, be a sign of, exemplify
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (denoting the Apostles' Creed): from Latin symbolum ‘symbol, Creed (as the mark of a Christian)’, from Greek sumbolon ‘mark, token’, from sun- ‘with’ + ballein ‘to throw’.