AskDefine | Define symbolic

Dictionary Definition

symbolic adj
1 relating to or using or proceeding by means of symbols; "symbolic logic"; "symbolic operations"; "symbolic thinking" [syn: symbolical]
2 serving as a visible symbol for something abstract; "a crown is emblematic of royalty"; "the spinning wheel was as symbolic of colonical Massachusetts as the codfish" [syn: emblematic, emblematical, symbolical]
3 using symbolism; "symbolic art"

User Contributed Dictionary



From French symbolique or Latin symbolicus, from Ancient Greek συμβολικός (symbolikos) "of or belonging to a symbol".



  1. Pertaining to a symbol.
  2. Referring to something with an implicit meaning.


Pertaining to a symbol
  • Hebrew: , ,
Referring to something with an implicit meaning
  • Hebrew: , , ,

Extensive Definition

"Symbolic" redirects here. For other uses, see Symbolism (disambiguation) and Symbolic (disambiguation).
Symbolism is the applied use of symbols: iconic representations that carry particular conventional meanings.
The term "symbolism" is often limited to use in contrast to "representationalism"; defining the general directions of a linear spectrum - where in all symbolic concepts can be viewed in relation, and where changes in context may imply systemic changes to individual and collective definitions of symbols. "Symbolism" may refer to a way of choosing representative symbols in line with abstract rather than literal properties, allowing for the broader interpretation of a carried meaning than more literal concept-representations allow. A religion can be described as a language of concepts related to human spirituality. Symbolism hence is an important aspect of most religions.


All forms of language are innately symbolic, and any system of symbols can form a "language;" even a binary system. Human oral language is based on the phoneme. The written word is symbolically representative of both the symbolic phoneme and directly to the cognitive concept which it represents. The field of cognitive linguistics explores the cognitive process and relationships between different systems of phonetic symbols to indicate difference.


The interpretation of abstract symbols has had an important role in religion and psychoanalysis. As envisioned by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, symbols are not the creations of mind, but rather are distinct capacities within the mind to hold a distinct piece of information. In the mind, the symbol can find free association with any number of other symbols, can be organized in any number of ways, and can hold the connected meanings between symbols as symbols in themselves. Jung and Freud diverged on the issue of common cognitive symbol systems and whether they could exist only within the individual mind or among other minds; whether any cognitive symbolism was defined by innate symbolism or by the influence of the environment around them.
symbolic in Czech: Symbolismus
symbolic in Danish: Symbolisme
symbolic in German: Symbolismus
symbolic in Modern Greek (1453-): Συμβολισμός
symbolic in Spanish: simbolismo
symbolic in Persian: نمادگرایی
symbolic in French: Symbolisme
symbolic in Japanese: 象徴主義
symbolic in Dutch: Symbolisme
symbolic in Norwegian: Symbolisme
symbolic in Portuguese: Simbolismo
symbolic in Romanian: Simbolism
symbolic in Slovak: Symbolizmus
symbolic in Chinese: 象征主义

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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