Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or expressed by means of symbols or a symbol.
  • adj. Serving as a symbol.
  • adj. Using symbolism: symbolic art.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Pertaining to a symbol.
  • adj. Referring to something with an implicit meaning.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to a symbol or symbols; of the nature of a symbol; exhibiting or expressing by resemblance or signs; representative.
  • n. See symbolics.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to symbols; of the nature of a symbol; serving as a symbol; representative: as, the figure of an eye is symbolic of sight and knowledge.
  • In grammar, formal; relational; connective: sometimes noting words having a formal or relational value.
  • In mathematics, dealing with symbols of operation.
  • n. Same as symbolics.
  • Of or pertaining to symbolism, 4.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. relating to or using or proceeding by means of symbols
  • adj. using symbolism
  • adj. serving as a visible symbol for something abstract

Etymologies

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

Examples

  • Many others followed Drucker; Robert Reich coined the phrase "symbolic analysts" much the same as Drucker's "knowledge workers" for those trained to use information in a way that allowed them to thrive in a shifting, information-rich networked world.

    Robert Teitelman: Svengalis, Bankers and the Role of Intermediaries

  • Nomos Alpha, from 1966, is an example of what he called symbolic music, in which the order of musical events is determined according to mathematical rules, while Kottos, composed 11 years later, is a portrait of one of the giants from Greek mythology who fought with Zeus against the Titans.

    Xenakis: Complete Works for Cello – review

  • The whole symbolism thing would be stupid and meaningless, except that the symbolic is at least as important as the substantial to the pathologically biased and absurd human being.

    Oh, *no*. *More* political maps inciting violence! | RedState

  • President Calderon comparing the fence on our southern border to quote, "the Berlin Wall", saying that Mexicans in the United States are what he calls symbolic hostages of the illegal immigration issue.

    CNN Transcript Feb 11, 2008

  • Commission for the provision of what it described as symbolic reparations.

    ANC Daily News Briefing

  • As an illustration of what he calls symbolic movements, I will quote his remarks (p. 37), taken from M. Chevreul, on a man playing at billiards.

    The expression of the emotions in man and animals

  • I shall endeavour to show how I trace the connection of my earlier and my later life; how my earlier life has proved for me the means of understanding my later; how, in general, my own individual life has become to me a key to the universal life, or, in short, to what I call the symbolic life and the perpetual, conditioned, and unbroken chain of existence.

    Autobiography of Friedrich Froebel

  • The small group gathered on Thursday for a march toward what it called a "symbolic site of finance and capitalism," with plans for an unidentified "action," but dozens of police moved in and encircled the protesters.

    The Seattle Times

  • Democrats say they won't let a bill pass the Senate with the subsidies provision, which they described as a symbolic gesture aimed at trying to force them to negotiate with the House on the labor issue.

    KansasCity.com: Front Page

  • However, some activists like Mohammed al-Qahtani, who heads a human rights group, say there was probably too much excitement over what he called a "symbolic" announcement that won't be implemented for a few more years.

    NPR Topics: News

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