symbol


symbol
/sim"beuhl/, n., v., symboled, symboling or (esp. Brit.) symbolled, symbolling.
n.
1. something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
2. a letter, figure, or other character or mark or a combination of letters or the like used to designate something: the algebraic symbol x; the chemical symbol Au.
3. a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized, as being part of that which is symbolized, and as performing its normal function of standing for or representing that which is symbolized: usually conceived as deriving its meaning chiefly from the structure in which it appears, and generally distinguished from a sign.
v.t.
4. to symbolize.
[1400-50; late ME < L symbolum < Gk sýmbolon sign, equiv. to sym- SYM- + -bolon, neut. for bolé (fem.) a throw]

* * *

Element of communication intended to represent or stand for a person, object, group, process, or idea.

Symbols may be presented graphically (e.g., the red cross and crescent for the worldwide humanitarian agency) or representationally (e.g., a lion representing courage). They may involve associated letters (e.g., C for the chemical element carbon), or they may be assigned arbitrarily (e.g., the mathematical symbol ∞ for infinity). Symbols are devices by which ideas are transmitted between people sharing a common culture. Every society has evolved a symbol system that reflects a specific cultural logic; and every symbolism functions to communicate information between members of the culture in much the same way as, but more subtly than, conventional language. Symbols tend to appear in clusters and to depend on one another for their accretion of meaning and value. See also semiotics.

* * *

 a communication element intended to simply represent or stand for a complex of person, object, group, or idea. Symbols may be presented graphically, as in the cross for Christianity and the red cross or crescent for the life-preserving agencies of Christian and Islamic countries (see Red Cross and Red Crescent; representationally, as in the human figures Marianne, John Bull, and Uncle Sam standing for France, England, and the United States, respectively; they may involve letters, as in K for the chemical element potassium; or they may be assigned arbitrarily, as in the mathematical symbol ∞ for infinity or the symbol $ for dollar.

      In various philosophical contexts and particularly in semiotics, a branch of metalogic, very precise distinctions are made between symbol and sign. See also sign.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms: