Definition: Symbol

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From French symbole, from Latin symbolus, symbolum (a sign, mark, token, symbol, in Late Latin also a creed), from Ancient Greek σύμβολον or súmbolon (a sign by which one infers something; a mark, token, badge, ticket, tally, check, a signal, watchword, outward sign), from συμβάλλω or sumbállō (I throw together, dash together, compare, correspond, tally, come to a conclusion), from σύν or sún (with, together) + βάλλω or bállō (I throw, put).


symbol (plural symbols)

  1. A character or glyph representing an idea, concept or object.
    $ is the symbol for dollars in the US and some other countries.
    Chinese people use word symbols for writing.
  2. A thing considered the embodiment of a concept or object.
    The lion is the symbol of courage; the lamb is the symbol of meekness or patience.
  3. (linguistics) A type of noun whereby the form refers to the same entity independently of the context; a symbol arbitrarily denotes a referent.
  4. A summary of a dogmatic statement of faith.
    The Apostles, Nicene Creed and the confessional books of Protestantism, such as the Augsburg Confession of Lutheranism are considered symbols.
  5. (programming) An internal identifier used by a debugger to relate parts of the compiled program to the corresponding names in the source code.
  6. (telecommunications) A signalling event on a communications channel; a signal that cannot be further divided into meaningful information.

Derived terms

  • status symbol
  • typographical symbol

Related terms


symbol (third-person singular simple present symbols, present participle symboling or symbolling, simple past and past participle symboled or symbolled)

  1. To symbolize.


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