(noun) Anything that represents something else.

Example: @ means at, $ means United States dollar, % means percentage, © means copyright, ® means registered, € means euro, ¥ means yen, and ∞ means infinity.

Audio Pronunciation: (sym·bol)

Download Audio Pronunciation: symbol.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: symbols
  • Also called symbolic representation.
  • Types: status symbol

Related Quotations:

  • “Culture could not exist without symbols because there would be no shared meanings among people” (Kendall 2006:48).
  • “[Culture is] a ‘tool kit’ of symbols, stories, rituals, and world-views, which people may use in varying configurations to solve different kinds of problems” (Swidler 19863:273).
  • “Symbols are instrumental in helping people derive meaning from social interactions. In social encounters, each person’s interpretation or definition of a given situation becomes a subjective reality from that person’s viewpoint. We often assume that what we consider ‘reality’ is shared by others; however, this assumption is often incorrect” (Kendall 2006:20).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Swidler, Ann. 1986. “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies.” American Sociological Review. 51(2): 273-286.