A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication (and data processing) is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a blue line might represent a river. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Alphabetic letters may be symbols for sounds. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose may symbolize love and compassion. The variable 'x', in a mathematical equation, may symbolize the position of a particle in space. In cartography, an organized collection of symbols forms a legend for a map.
1 Etymology 2 Definitions 3 Symbols and semiotics 4 Psychoanalysis, rhetoric and archetypes 5 Paul Tillich 6 Role of context in symbolism
6.1 Historical meaning 6.2 Context
7 Symbols in Cartography 8 Symbolic action 9 See also 10 Notes 11 External links
The word symbol derives from the Greek symbolon (σύμβολον)
meaning token or watchword. It is an amalgam of syn- "together" + bole
"a throwing, a casting, the stroke of a missile, bolt, beam." The
sense evolution in Greek is from "throwing things together" to
"contrasting" to "comparing" to "token used in comparisons to
determine if something is genuine." Hence, "outward sign" of
something. The meaning "something which stands for something else" was
first recorded in 1590, in Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene.
In considering the effect of a symbol on the psyche, in his seminal
"a symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect. We must
distinguish, therefore between the 'sense' and the 'meaning' of the
symbol. It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little
symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three
levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream,
and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable. The term 'meaning' can
refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of
science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but
of signs. The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only
sensed. It is the province of art which is not 'expression' merely, or
even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience
evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what
Sir Herbert Read
Jared Elisha defined symbolism that is something that stands for
another, it can be place, object, or a person
"Concepts and words are symbols, just as visions, rituals, and images are; so too are the manners and customs of daily life. Through all of these a transcendent reality is mirrored. There are so many metaphors reflecting and implying something which, though thus variously expressed, is ineffable, though thus rendered multiform, remains inscrutable. Symbols hold the mind to truth but are not themselves the truth, hence it is delusory to borrow them. Each civilisation, every age, must bring forth its own."
In the book Signs and Symbols, it is stated that A symbol ... is a
visual image or sign representing an idea -- a deeper indicator of a
Symbols are a means of complex communication that often can have
multiple levels of meaning. This separates symbols from signs, as
signs have only one meaning.
Human cultures use symbols to express specific ideologies and social
structures and to represent aspects of their specific culture. Thus,
symbols carry meanings that depend upon one’s cultural background;
in other words, the meaning of a symbol is not inherent in the symbol
itself but is culturally learned.
Symbols are the basis of all human understanding and serve as vehicles
of conception for all human knowledge. Symbols facilitate
understanding of the world in which we live, thus serving as the
grounds upon which we make judgments. In this way, people use
symbols not only to make sense of the world around them, but also to
identify and cooperate in society through constitutive rhetoric.
Symbols and semiotics
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A symbol's meaning may be modified by various factors including popular usage, history, and contextual intent. Historical meaning This history of a symbol is one of many factors in determining a particular symbol's apparent meaning. Consequently, symbols with emotive power carry problems analogous to false etymologies. Context The context of a symbol may change its meaning. Similar five-pointed stars might signify a law enforcement officer or a member of the armed services, depending upon the uniform. Symbols in Cartography
The three categories of cartographic symbol shapes.
Symbols are used in cartography to communicate geographical information (generally as point, line, or area features). As with other symbols, visual variables such as size, shape, orientation, texture, and pattern provide meaning to the symbol. The form, or shape, of a cartographic symbol is classified into one of three main groups: Pictorial/Representational - a shape or image that clearly resembles the geographic feature being symbolized and can be interpreted without a legend. Associative - a mixture of pictorial and geometric elements that produce an easily recognizable shape. Abstract/Geometric - completely arbitrary shapes chosen to represent a certain feature. Symbolic action
Wearing a red ribbon is a symbolic action that communicates support for AIDS awareness and people with HIV.
A symbolic action is an action that has no, or little, practical effect but symbolizes, or signals, what the actor wants or believes. The action conveys meaning to the viewers. Symbolic action may overlap with symbolic speech, such as the use of flag burning to express hostility or saluting the flag to express patriotism. In response to intense public criticism, businesses, organizations, and governments may take symbolic actions rather than, or in addition to, directly addressing the identified problems. Symbolic actions are sometimes derided as slacktivism. See also
^ Online Etymological Dictionary
^ Campbell, Joseph (2002). Flight of the Wild Gander:- The Symbol
without Meaning. California: New World Library. p. 143.
^ Campbell, The
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