What is the Definition of Symbolize? Understanding the Meaning and Importance of Symbolism

Symbolism is a powerful tool used to convey meanings and ideas in a subtle yet impactful way, often in the form of an object, word, or gesture. It serves as a way to represent something abstract or intangible, such as emotions, concepts, or beliefs, through a concrete and tangible form that people can relate to. The concept of symbolism has been used throughout history across various cultures, religions, and art forms, and it continues to be a crucial element in contemporary literature, art, and design.

At its core, symbolism involves the use of symbols to communicate a message or evoke certain emotions from the viewer or reader. These symbols can range from simple objects like a red rose, which may symbolize love, to more complex themes like the juxtaposition of light and dark in literature, which often represents the struggle between good and evil. The use of symbolism can add a layer of depth and meaning to creative works, enabling artists and writers to convey abstract or complex ideas in a way that is accessible and relatable to their audience.

Ultimately, symbolism is more than just a means of communication – it’s a way to tap into our collective unconscious and connect with something greater than ourselves. While the specific meanings of symbols may vary depending on the context and cultural understanding, the power of symbolism lies in its ability to resonate with people on a deeper level, bypassing the rational mind and speaking directly to our emotions and intuition. Whether in art, literature, or everyday life, the use of symbolism is a vital part of how we make sense of the world around us.

How symbols convey meaning

Symbols are everywhere in our lives. They are used to communicate visually, representing complex ideas, concepts, and emotions in a simple form. Symbols are powerful tools that help us navigate the world, connect with each other, and express ourselves creatively. The ability of symbols to convey meaning is what makes them so important.

  • Universal language: Symbols are a universal language that can be understood by people from different cultures, religions, and languages. They are a universal way to communicate and comprehend different concepts without using words.
  • Emotional connection: Symbols have the power to evoke emotions and connections. They can represent profound ideas like faith, hope, love, and freedom. Using symbols to convey such emotions can make a significant impact on someone’s life.
  • Subconscious effect: Symbols have a subconscious effect on people. They can trigger memories, associations, and experiences, even without conscious awareness. For example, the American flag can evoke a sense of patriotism in people.

Additionally, symbols can also be used to enhance communication by adding layers of meaning, such as in visual storytelling, advertisements, and branding. They are an effective way to convey complex ideas in a simple and memorable way.

Understanding how symbols convey meaning can give us a profound insight into human communication and connection.


Iconography is the study of symbols and images and their interpretation. It involves the analysis of the meaning and symbolism behind various images and symbols, including those used in art and literature. Iconography is a complex discipline that combines art history, philosophy, and theology to understand the deeper meanings and messages conveyed through images and symbols.

  • Iconography is often used in religious and spiritual contexts, where certain symbols are believed to represent greater truths or realities. For example, the cross is a symbol of Christianity that represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his victory over death.
  • Iconography can also be used in secular contexts, such as in advertising or political propaganda. In these cases, symbols are often used to convey a specific message or emotion to the viewer.
  • Iconography can be analyzed both on a macro and micro level. On a macro level, scholars may analyze the symbolism and imagery used throughout an entire work of art or literature. On a micro level, scholars may focus on a specific symbol or image and its meaning within the larger context.

One famous example of iconography is the Tarot deck, which uses a variety of symbols and images to represent different aspects of the human experience. The Tarot deck includes 78 cards, each with its own unique image and symbolic meaning. These cards are used for divination and self-discovery, allowing individuals to tap into their inner wisdom and gain insight into their lives.

To further understand the complexities of iconography, it’s important to examine the different meanings and associations that are attached to specific symbols and images. For example, the color red can represent love, passion, or anger depending on the context in which it is used. Similarly, the image of a snake can represent wisdom or deception, again depending on the context in which it appears.

Lotus FlowerEnlightenment, purity
DovePeace, love
HourglassTime, mortality

Overall, symbolization through iconography is a fascinating field of study that provides insight into various aspects of human culture, history, and spirituality.


Semiotics is the study of symbols and signs, and how they create meaning within a culture or society. Symbols are objects, images, gestures, or words that represent something beyond their literal meaning, and semiotics explores how these symbols are used to communicate and construct meaning.

The Definition of Symbolize

  • Verb: to represent or express something by a symbol or symbols.
  • Noun: a symbol or set of symbols used to represent or express something.
  • Example: The American flag symbolizes freedom and democracy.

The Three Types of Symbols in Semiotics

Semiotics identifies three types of symbols:

  • Icon: a symbol that resembles or imitates the thing it represents. For example, a picture of a heart is an icon for love.
  • Index: a symbol that indicates or points to something else. For example, smoke is an index of fire.
  • Symbol: a symbol that is arbitrarily linked to the thing it represents. For example, the letters “A-P-P-L-E” do not resemble an actual apple, but are a symbol for the fruit.

The Semiotics of Brands and Advertising

In consumer culture, symbols are used extensively in branding and advertising. Companies create logos, slogans, and other visual and auditory cues that are meant to represent their brand and communicate a message to the consumer. For example, the Nike “swoosh” is an iconic symbol that represents the company’s commitment to athleticism and winning. The “Got Milk?” slogan is an index that points to the benefits of drinking milk. By understanding the semiotics of symbols, companies are able to create effective branding and advertising campaigns that resonate with their target audience.

McDonald’s Golden ArchesFast food and convenience
Apple’s LogoInnovative technology and design
Coca Cola’s Script LogoAmericana and nostalgia

By using symbols effectively, companies are able to create strong emotional connections with their customers, which can translate into brand loyalty and increased sales.

Importance of Symbolism in Literature

Symbolism is an integral part of literature that involves the use of symbols to represent ideas and qualities. Through symbolism, authors can convey meaning and depth in their writing, and readers can interpret and derive meaning from the symbols presented.

The Role of Symbolism in Literature

The use of symbolism in literature serves several purposes, including:

  • Adding depth and complexity to characters, settings, and themes
  • Conveying emotions and ideas that are difficult to express through words alone
  • Engaging readers and encouraging them to think critically about the text
  • Creating a sense of unity and coherence throughout a work of literature

Examples of Symbolism in Literature

Symbolism is used in many famous works of literature, including:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s hopes and dreams
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The mockingbird symbolizes innocence and goodness, particularly that of Tom Robinson
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – The scarlet letter itself is a symbol of Hester’s sin and shame

Interpreting Symbolism in Literature

Interpreting the symbolism in a work of literature can be a subjective process, as symbols can have different meanings based on the reader’s own experiences and perspectives. However, some general guidelines for interpreting symbolism in literature include:

SymbolPossible Meanings
ColorsRed can symbolize passion or anger, while blue can symbolize calmness or sadness
AnimalsCats can symbolize independence and mystery, while snakes can symbolize betrayal
ObjectsA rose can symbolize love and beauty, while a clock can symbolize the passage of time and mortality

When interpreting symbolism, it’s important to look at the context in which the symbol is used, as well as any patterns or repetitions that occur throughout the text.

Overall, symbolism plays a crucial role in literature by enhancing meaning and creating a deeper, more complex reading experience for audiences.

Symbolism in Art

In art, symbolism refers to the use of symbols to convey meaning or depict ideas, emotions, or characters. A symbol is an object, image, or action that represents something beyond its literal meaning. Symbolism is a common technique used in various forms of art such as literature, visual arts, and performing arts. It is a popular tool that artists use to visually express abstract concepts and ideas that cannot be conveyed through conventional means.

  • Color Symbolism: The use of color in art has been a popular symbolism technique. For instance, red is often associated with passion, love, or danger while blue is associated with trust, calmness, and faith. Artists use color to express emotions, moods, or themes in their work. The use of color in art can also convey cultural and historical symbolism.
  • Animal Symbolism: Many artists use animal symbolism to represent concepts, ideas, or emotions. For instance, the lion is often associated with strength, royalty, and power, while the butterfly is associated with transformation and rebirth.
  • Religious Symbolism: Religious art often features symbols that represent certain religious beliefs, events, or personalities. For instance, the cross is a universal symbol of Christianity, while the Star of David is a symbol of Judaism. Artists use religious symbols to bring attention to specific ideas or concepts within their artwork.

Symbolism in art is often subjective and may be interpreted differently depending on the individual viewer’s experiences and beliefs. Artistic symbolism can be both visually striking and intellectually challenging, provoking thought and contemplation in the viewer. Understanding the symbolism in art often requires an awareness of the context in which it was created, including the cultural and historical background of the work.

The use of symbolism in art allows artists to transcend common representations and encourage their audience to re-evaluate familiar images. These symbols often suggest meanings beyond what is explicitly presented in the work, creating a deeper connection between the viewer and the work of art.


The Table above is an example of how artists use symbolic imagery to create meaning within their works. Symbols in art are often used to represent abstract concepts and are an effective way for the artist to communicate their ideas to the audience. Symbolism in art allows for a deeper understanding of the work and helps the viewer to connect with the piece on a subconscious level.

Religious Symbolism: The Definition and Meaning of Symbolize

Symbolism is a powerful tool used in religious art and literature to convey messages and ideas. Religious symbolism, in particular, is an intricate web of signs, symbols, and motifs that are used to represent abstract thoughts, concepts, or beliefs.

The Number 6: Significance and Symbolism

The number six has a significant place in many aspects of religious symbolism. In many cultures, the number 6 has a divine connotation and is often associated with completeness, perfection, and balance. Here are some notable examples of the significance and symbolism of the number 6 in religious symbolism:

  • Genesis: In the Bible, the number 6 is associated with the creation of humans. According to Genesis, God created the world in six days, and on the sixth day, he created humanity. As such, the number 6 is seen as the number of human beings, and its symbolic meaning is linked to mankind.
  • Islam: In Islamic tradition, the number 6 has significant symbolism in the Quran. The Quran places great emphasis on the number 6, which is considered a “perfect” number. There are six articles of faith in Islam, and worshippers are required to perform the six daily prayers.
  • Hinduism: The Hindu religion also sees the number 6 as significant. In the Hindu religion, six is the number of the god of love, Kama. It is also the number of seasons in the Hindu calendar, six directions in space, and six chakras in the body.

Overall, the number 6 holds a unique place in religious symbolism. Its meaning and significance vary across different cultures and religions, but its association with balance, completeness, and perfection is a common thread. Its significance in religious texts and practices are a testament to the power of symbolism in expressing complex ideas and concepts.

National Symbols: The Definition and Symbolism of the Number 7

National symbols are often used to represent the collective identity and values of a country. These symbols can be found in flags, crests, anthems, and many other forms. Each symbol has its own unique meaning and plays an important role in conveying the ideals of a nation. One such symbol is the number 7, which holds significant meaning for many countries around the world.

In numerology, the number 7 is often associated with spiritual and mystical properties. It is believed to be a sacred number that represents completeness and perfection. This idea is reflected in many cultures and religions, from the seven wonders of the world to the seven days of creation in the Bible.

In the context of national symbols, the number 7 has been used by many countries to represent important aspects of their identity and history. Here are some examples:

  • In Japan, the seven-branched sword is a symbol of the emperor’s power and the unity of the country’s seven clans.
  • In South Africa, there are seven colours in the national flag which represent diversity and unity.
  • In the United States, there are seven red stripes and six white stripes on the flag, along with seven stars on the seal, representing the original 13 colonies.
  • In Greece, there are seven rays on the crown of the statue of the goddess Athena, symbolizing wisdom and knowledge.

The number 7 has also played a role in other areas of national identity, such as sports. For example, in soccer (or football), the number 7 jersey has been worn by many legendary players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, and Lionel Messi. This number is often associated with skill, creativity, and leadership on the field.

In conclusion, the number 7 holds significant meaning in many cultures and has been used as a symbol of identity and history for various countries. Its symbolism of completeness and perfection makes it a powerful national symbol that represents unity, diversity, and excellence in many areas of national life.

Cultural Symbols: The Definition of Symbolize

Symbols are visual representations that carry meaning beyond their apparent function or form. Cultural symbols are objects, gestures, words, or pictures that represent a particular idea, belief, or value in a given culture. In this article, we will explore the meaning of symbolize with a focus on cultural symbols.

The Number 8

The number 8 is a cultural symbol that holds significance in many cultures around the world. In Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered to be lucky because it sounds similar to the word for “prosperity” or “wealth.” As a result, the number 8 is often associated with good fortune and financial success.

In Hinduism, the number 8 represents the eight-fold path to enlightenment. This path consists of right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. The number 8 also represents the eight forms of Lord Shiva and the eight types of wealth.

In Christianity, the number 8 is associated with rebirth and renewal. This is because Jesus was resurrected on the eighth day, which is also known as the day of new beginnings.

  • In Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered to be lucky because it sounds similar to the word for “prosperity” or “wealth.”
  • In Hinduism, the number 8 represents the eight-fold path to enlightenment.
  • In Christianity, the number 8 is associated with rebirth and renewal.

The Power of Symbols

Symbols have the power to communicate complex ideas and emotions without the need for words. They allow us to bridge cultural differences and communicate across the barriers of language and geography. The use of symbols is an integral part of our daily lives, whether we are using emojis in a text message or displaying a national flag to show our pride and patriotism.

Understanding the meaning of cultural symbols is essential for gaining insight into different cultures and their values. As we interact with people from different parts of the world, we can use these symbols as tools to build bridges, create understanding, and foster respect.

The Importance of Cultural Awareness

Cultural symbols are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding different cultures. It’s essential to approach cultural differences with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Cultural awareness allows us to recognize and appreciate the subtle nuances of different cultures, which can aid us in our personal and professional lives.

ChineseDragonPower, strength, good fortune
Native AmericanBearStrength, protection, healing
JapaneseCherry BlossomBeauty, transience, renewal

By embracing cultural diversity and recognizing the power of symbols, we can create a more harmonious and connected world.

Mythological symbols

Symbolism has played an important role in mythology since ancient times. Myths and legends are often saturated with symbols representing various cultural beliefs and values.

The number 9

The number 9 is a symbol that has been significant in many different cultures throughout history. In ancient Greece, the number 9 was associated with the goddess Athena, who was believed to have created the nine Muses, goddesses of literature and the arts. In Norse mythology, the number 9 was associated with Odin, who hung himself on a tree for nine days and nine nights in order to gain knowledge and wisdom.

  • In Christianity, the number 9 is sometimes associated with the Holy Trinity, as well as with the nine fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the New Testament (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).
  • In ancient Egypt, the god Atum was believed to have created the world by uttering nine words of power.
  • In Chinese culture, the number 9 is believed to be lucky because it sounds similar to the word for “long-lasting” or “eternity” in Mandarin.

The number 9 also holds significance in numerology, where it is considered a spiritual number associated with achievement, selflessness, and humanitarianism. In fact, some spiritual traditions believe that the number 9 represents the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one, making it a powerful symbol of transformation and change.

CultureSymbolism of Number 9
Ancient GreeceAthena and the nine Muses
Norse mythologyOdin’s nine-day sacrifice
ChristianityThe Holy Trinity and the nine fruits of the Spirit
Ancient EgyptAtum’s nine words of creation
Chinese cultureBelieved to be lucky and associated with “long-lasting” or “eternity”

The symbolism of the number 9 is broad and diverse, and its meanings vary across cultures and traditions. However, the pervasive association with completion, transformation, and spiritual growth makes it a significant symbol that has transcended time and culture.

Psychological significance of symbols

Symbols have always played a significant role in human psychology. They are used to convey abstract ideas and evoke emotions, feelings, and memories. The meanings of symbols may vary depending on cultural, historical, and personal contexts. Understanding the psychological significance of symbols can give insights into human consciousness, behavior, and thought processes.

The Number 10

The number 10 is a symbol that has been used across cultures throughout history. It is often considered a perfect and complete number, representing wholeness and totality. In many spiritual and religious traditions, the number 10 represents the divine and can symbolize the Ten Commandments, the Ten Sephirot in Kabbalistic tradition, or the Ten Incarnations of Hindu god Vishnu, among others.

  • In tarot card readings, the Ten of Cups signifies emotional fulfillment and happiness.
  • In Chinese culture, the number 10 represents harmony and balance.
  • In mathematics, the base 10 system is used globally for counting and arithmetic.

The number 10 is often associated with cycles and completion. For example, there are 10 fingers on a human hand, and the decimal system uses 10 digits to represent all numbers. This association with completion is also evident in the Ten Commandments, which provide a framework of moral and ethical guidelines to abide by.

Positive aspectsNegative aspects
Perfection and completenessExcessive or obsessive behavior to achieve perfection
Harmony and balanceBeing inflexible or rigid
Emotional fulfillment and happinessOverindulgence or addiction

Overall, the number 10 can symbolize a harmonious balance achieved through completeness and wholeness. It can be a powerful symbol to evoke when seeking harmony and balance in one’s life or striving for completeness and perfection in a project or goal.

What is the Definition of Symbolize?

Q: What does symbolize mean?
A: Symbolize means to represent or express something through symbols, signs, or figures.

Q: Can an object symbolize something?
A: Yes, an object can symbolize something, especially when it is used to represent a particular idea, concept, or emotion.

Q: What is the difference between symbolize and signify?
A: While both terms refer to the representation of something through signs or symbols, symbolize is often used when the symbol has a deeper and more complex meaning than just conveying an idea or message, whereas signify is used more generally to indicate or suggest something.

Q: What are some common examples of symbols?
A: Some common examples of symbols include the cross as a symbol of Christianity, the heart as a symbol of love, and the American flag as a symbol of patriotism.

Q: How do symbols affect our understanding of the world?
A: Symbols are important in helping us make sense of the world around us by providing shorthand ways of representing complex ideas or emotions.

Q: Can symbols mean different things in different cultures?
A: Yes, symbols can have different meanings in different cultures and can even be interpreted differently in the same culture depending on context or perspective.

Q: How do writers use symbols in literature?
A: Writers frequently use symbolize in literature to convey deeper meanings and themes that are not explicitly stated in the text.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the definition of symbolize. Whether you are a student, a writer, or simply curious about the world around you, understanding how symbols work and what they can mean is an important part of being a well-informed and thoughtful person. If you have any further questions or comments about this topic, please don’t hesitate to leave a message or come back to visit us again soon.