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[sim-bol-ik] /sɪmˈbɒl ɪk/
serving as a symbol of something (often followed by of).
of, relating to, or expressed by a symbol.
characterized by or involving the use of symbols:
a highly symbolic poem.
(in semantics, especially formerly) pertaining to a class of words that express only relations.
Compare notional (def 7).
Computers. expressed in characters, usually nonnumeric, that require translation before they can be used (opposed to absolute).
Also, symbolical (for defs 1–4).
Origin of symbolic
1650-60; < Late Latin symbolicus < Greek symbolikós. See symbol, -ic
Related forms
symbolically, adverb
symbolicalness, noun
nonsymbolic, adjective
nonsymbolical, adjective
nonsymbolically, adverb
nonsymbolicalness, noun
unsymbolic, adjective
unsymbolical, adjective
unsymbolically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for symbolic
  • And there is a joy in perceiving the representative or symbolic character of a fact, which no bare fact or event can ever give.
  • Since it was devoid of symbolic importance, he explained, it would not become a political time bomb.
  • Everything about the poem is charged with symbolic resonance.
  • Memorials can include explicit or symbolic physical features.
  • The reality of moves in that state are largely symbolic.
  • Oak trees have a long symbolic history within the military.
  • Having authored books about the symbolic use of color in different cultures, they decided to bring their research home.
  • It's a symbolic declaration that physical photographs are dead and should literally be buried.
  • On the symbolic end, officials think they should be able to control property that the city clearly and legally owns.
  • Let's consider the symbolic weight of this particular pie as well as the general weight of seemingly meaningless acts of protest.
British Dictionary definitions for symbolic


of or relating to a symbol or symbols
serving as a symbol
characterized by the use of symbols or symbolism
Derived Forms
symbolically, adverb
symbolicalness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for symbolic

c.1600 (implied in symbolically); see symbol + -ic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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