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Symbol Definition

A type of image that transferred something that represents something else, such as Spring for youth, or darkness for death. Symbols are useful in transferring ideals carried in the image without stating them. A symbol works two ways: It is something itself, and it also suggests something deeper. It is crucial to distinguish a symbol from a metaphor: Metaphors are comparisons between two seemingly dissimilar things; symbols associate two things, but their meaning is both literal and figurative.

Symbol Poem Example

Sara Teasdale

I must have passed the crest a while ago
    And now I am going down--
Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know,
    But the brambles were always catching the hem of my gown.

All the morning I thought how proud I should be
    To stand there straight as a queen,
Wrapped in the wind and the sun with the world under me--
    But the air was dull, there was little I could have seen.

It was nearly level along the beaten track
    And the brambles caught in my gown--
But it's no use now to think of turning back,
    The rest of the way will be only going down.

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Other Symbol Definition

[n] something visible that by association or convention represents something else that is invisible; "the eagle is a symbol of the United States"
[n] an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance

Misc. Definitions

\Sym"bol\, n. [L. symbolus, symbolum, Gr. sy`mbolon a sign by which one knows or infers a thing, from ? to throw or put together, to compare; sy`n with + ? to throw: cf. F. symbole. Cf. {Emblem}, {Parable}.]
1. A visible sign or representation of an idea; anything which suggests an idea or quality, or another thing, as by resemblance or by convention; an emblem; a representation; a type; a figure; as, the lion is the symbol of courage; the lamb is the symbol of meekness or patience. A symbol is a sign included in the idea which it represents, e. g., an actual part chosen to represent the whole, or a lower form or species used as the representative of a higher in the same kind. --Coleridge.
2. (Math.) Any character used to represent a quantity, an operation, a relation, or an abbreviation. Note: In crystallography, the symbol of a plane is the numerical expression which defines its position relatively to the assumed axes.
3. (Theol.) An abstract or compendium of faith or doctrine; a creed, or a summary of the articles of religion.
4. [Gr. ? contributions.] That which is thrown into a common fund; hence, an appointed or accustomed duty. [Obs.] They do their work in the days of peace . . . and come to pay their symbol in a war or in a plague. --Jer. Taylor.
5. Share; allotment. [Obs.] The persons who are to be judged . . . shall all appear to receive their symbol. --Jer. Taylor.
6. (Chem.) An abbreviation standing for the name of an element and consisting of the initial letter of the Latin or New Latin name, or sometimes of the initial letter with a following one; as, {C} for carbon, {Na} for sodium (Natrium), {Fe} for iron (Ferrum), {Sn} for tin (Stannum), {Sb} for antimony (Stibium), etc. See the list of names and symbols under {Element}. Note: In pure and organic chemistry there are symbols not only for the elements, but also for their grouping in formulas, radicals, or residues, as evidenced by their composition, reactions, synthesis, etc. See the diagram of {Benzene nucleus}, under {Benzene}. Syn: Emblem; figure; type. See {Emblem}.
\Sym"bol\, v. t. To symbolize. [R.] --Tennyson.

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