Definition of symbolism in US English:



  • 1The use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.

    ‘he has always believed in the importance of symbolism in garden art’
    • ‘Overflowing with symbolism and ironic dialogue, the film is beautifully washed in grey light.’
    • ‘What is most disappointing is that I could tell there were a lot of cultural references and symbolism that I missed as a non-Japanese viewer.’
    • ‘I suspect they could cut it down, but I think people like the religious symbolism - I think it helps them believe revival will work.’
    • ‘These changes indicate a shift in ritual communication and material symbolism.’
    • ‘But in fact, the words, symbolism and ideology were a ruse for grasping and holding onto power.’
    • ‘This rivalry serves as a subject worth great discussion due to the political symbolism each team represents and the history which divides the collected fans.’
    • ‘Some questioned the political gain of such self-sacrifice, or of trying to take down a heavily guarded fence in a gesture of dubious symbolism.’
    • ‘But anyone who has ever striven to meet their standards knows they do not sacrifice quality for symbolism's sake.’
    • ‘Topics include symbolism, dialogue, and the influence of film on reading comics.’
    • ‘The counter-argument is that those who believe this are just taking symbolism to the extreme, and symbols aren't inviolable.’
    • ‘While detractors tend to focus on his heavy symbolism and soliloquies, there is nonetheless a more delicate strand to Bergman's work.’
    • ‘Although Emily's contemplations can feel overwritten and her symbolism heavy-handed, her engagingly angsty personality draws us in.’
    • ‘Several former communist leaders used symbolism, religion, and outright dictatorial tactics to remain in power.’
    • ‘This is a lot more about symbolism than substance.’
    • ‘Like other films from the region, it carries deep-set symbolism and unspoken ideas.’
    • ‘Through symbolism, you get your message across.’
    • ‘And that is the main fault line running through the collection: the stories are too choked with symbolism to achieve their lofty ambitions.’
    • ‘Among the most interesting qualities of this film is the way this symbolism reinforces itself on multiple levels.’
    • ‘The symbolism was no accident: the film represented a new Germany, reborn and free of suffering on the First World War cross of defeat and humiliation.’
    • ‘It is all symbolism, and scare tactics and vaporizing about the ‘idea of Europe’.’
    1. 1.1 Symbolic meaning attributed to natural objects or facts.
      ‘the old-fashioned symbolism of flowers’
      • ‘Maybe there was symbolism in the fact that he had built her coffin.’
      • ‘Morrison is right that there have been many gestural attempts to endow some buildings and the institutions that they house with significance through architectural symbolism.’
      • ‘Here's hoping that there is no deeper symbolism in the fact that the Namibian flag was hanging upside-down outside the High Court yesterday.’
      • ‘Then there is the giving and receiving of gifts for children which can take on an increased significance and symbolism during the festive season.’
      • ‘Well, let me ask you about that, in fact, because the symbolism of marriage is very clear.’
      • ‘The real significance of the vote is in its symbolism, and the fact it comes at a critical, watershed juncture in the evolution of sentiment toward the euro.’
      • ‘The 12 dishes of a traditional banquet are chosen mainly for their symbolism and connotations of luck.’
      • ‘It was a thousand years from Charlemagne to Napoleon, and yet the implicit symbolism of the Bonaparte's action was unmistakable.’
      • ‘I especially love it when there is no meaningful symbolism and the inclusion of something pivotal was entirely by accident or an after thought.’
      • ‘They either remained blissfully ignorant about the deep symbolism of these images or deliberately ignored it.’
      • ‘In fact, all symbolism is a type of metaphor since they compare two unlike things.’
      • ‘The Mourides have in fact developed a far-reaching symbolism around the various attributes seen within the original photograph.’
      • ‘This tour de force of silver, gold, and enamel, more than three feet tall, is bristling with foliage and flowers and laden with symbolism.’
      • ‘Therefore, if a flag purely represents the symbolism one personally attaches to it, surely it is harmless?’
      • ‘There is a kind of symbolism in the fact that the quotation comes from a man who also from time to time got into trouble in the town of Ayr.’
      • ‘The lily has always had strong symbolic value, though its meaning and symbolism have changed through the ages.’
      • ‘The symbolism carved out of flowers, the sun and elements of nature is surprisingly shared across the board of all three artists.’
      • ‘It was a moment of pomp and circumstance, and of great symbolism, tinged with more than a little sadness.’
      • ‘We are part of the community and there is a certain amount of symbolism in the event.’
      • ‘I totally agree with Patrice Hall that a symbol loses its symbolism if it tells you what it symbolises.’
      • ‘If you want to know what joining the European Union means for a country like the Czech Republic, look at the symbolism of the fact that it took place on May 1.’
    2. 1.2 An artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind. It originated in late 19th century France and Belgium, with important figures including Mallarmé, Maeterlinck, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Redon.
      • ‘This pioneering show was not so much a re-evaluation of the artists as a validation of their importance through their contribution to European symbolism.’
      • ‘One of the most important qualities of symbolism within this novel, is the way in which it is so fully integrated into the plot and structure.’
      • ‘Throughout his life he read voraciously about the great figures of European romanticism and symbolism.’
      • ‘Various other literary styles, such as symbolism and existentialism, have influenced Slovene writers since the 1960s.’
      • ‘His style, derived from observations of both art and life, is a more or less naive, expressionistic symbolism.’
      • ‘Golding brings emotion, thought, and symbolism together in Lord Of The Flies to tell a story of survival by adaptation and ingenuity.’
      • ‘The lyrics veer between poetic symbolism and naked political urgency.’
      • ‘From the first his work was macabre and fantastic, influenced by Goya's Caprichos, the drawings of Beardsley, the eroticism of Rops, and the symbolism of Redon.’
      • ‘It represents a rustic vision of Jacob wrestling with the Angel, but the real struggle fought out on canvas is between naturalism and symbolism in art.’
      • ‘And that motif links the poem with the overall symbolism of Swinburne's world where the sea is always considered a last refuge after pain.’
      • ‘Other essays touch on matters of style, symbolism and irony.’
      • ‘Poetry has been especially impacted: the Dawn-esque symbolism of Yeats informs Ted Hughes, and much Seamus Heaney and John Berryman.’
      • ‘Writings were characterized by symbolism, romanticism, and existentialism.’
      • ‘According to the artist, the painting is full of symbolism.’
      • ‘Highly decorative and extremely personal, Davie's work celebrates colour and form, symbolism and mysticism.’
      • ‘More labels spring to mind, formalism and symbolism among them.’
      • ‘And, three, it also introduces a terrific tool for writers and visual artists alike: symbolism.’
      • ‘There are traces of surrealism, symbolism in his works.’
      • ‘The work employs Alvar's traditional figures and symbolism to convey the message.’
      • ‘What was he trying to convey and what was the idea behind this symbolism?’