Symbol

Symbol

A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for numbers. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose symbolises love and compassion.

In cartography, an organized collection of symbols forms a legend, or key.

Contents

Etymology

The word symbol came to the English language by way of Middle English, from Old French, from Latin, from the Greek σύμβολον (sýmbolon) from the root words συν- (syn-), meaning "together," and βολή (bolē), "a throw", having the approximate meaning of "to throw together", literally a "coincidence", also "sign, ticket, or contract". The earliest attestation of the term is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where Hermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims "σύμβολον ἤδη μοι μέγ᾽ ὀνήσιμον", meaning "A sign/portent/encounter of joy to me!", before turning it into a lyre.

Psychoanalysis and archetypes

Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol, distinguishing it from the term sign. In Jung's view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol, which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise. An example of a symbol in this sense is Christ as a symbol of the archetype called self.[1] For example, written languages are composed of a variety of different symbols that create words. Through these written words, humans communicate with each other. Kenneth Burke described Homo sapiens as a "symbol-using, symbol making, and symbol misusing animal" to indicate that a person creates symbols in her or his life as well as misuses them. One example he uses to indicate his meaning behind symbol misuse is the story of a man who, when told a particular food item was whale blubber, could barely keep from throwing it up. Later, his friend discovered it was actually just a dumpling. But the man's reaction was a direct consequence of the symbol of "blubber" representing something inedible in his mind. In addition, the symbol of "blubber" for the man was created by him through various kinds of learning. Burke emphasizes that humans gain this type of learning that helps us create symbols by seeing various print sources, our life experiences, and symbols about the past.

Burke goes on to describe symbols as also being derived from Sigmund Freud's work on condensation and displacement further stating that they are not just relevant to the theory of dreams, but also to "normal symbol systems". He says they are related through "substitution" where one word, phrase, or symbol is substituted for another in order to change the meaning. In other words, if a person does not understand a certain word or phrase, another person may substitute a synonym or symbol in order to get the meaning of the original word or phrase across. However, when faced with that new way of interpreting a specific symbol, a person may change their already formed ideas to incorporate the new information based on how the symbol is expressed to the person.

Jean Dalby Clift says that people not only add their own interpretations to symbols, they also create personal symbols that represent their own understanding of their lives: what she calls "core images" of the person. She argues that symbolic work with these personal symbols or core images can be as useful as working with dream symbols in psychoanalysis or counseling.[2]

Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich argued that while signs are invented and forgotten, symbols are born and die. There are therefore dead and living symbols. A living symbol can reveal hidden levels of meaning, and transcendent or religious realities to an individual. For Tillich, a symbol always "points beyond itself" to something that is unquantifiable and mysterious. This is the symbol's "depth dimension". Symbols are complex and their meanings can evolve as the individual or culture evolves. When a symbol loses its meaning and power for an individual or culture, it becomes a dead symbol. The Greek Gods might be an example of dead symbols that were once living for the ancient Greeks but whose meaning and power is now gone.

When a symbol becomes identified with the deeper reality to which it refers, it becomes idolatrous as the "symbol is taken for reality." Here, the symbol itself is substituted for the deeper meaning it intends to convey. The unique nature of the symbol is that it gives access to deeper layers of reality which are otherwise inaccessible.

Role of context in symbolism

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.

For example, the Rebel Flag of the American South predates the American Civil War. An early variant of the crossed bars resembled the Scottish Flag.[3][verification needed]

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 the uniform.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Psychological Types, C. G. Jung, (trans. Baynes), p. 601.
  2. ^ Jean Dalby Clift, Core Images of the Self: A Symbolic Approach to Healing and Wholeness. Crossroad, 1992.
  3. ^ http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ERsyiUOYI4kC&oi=fnd&pg=PA15&dq=confederate+flag+extremist+groups+ku+klux+klan&ots=7IgVGRosTS&sig=YhygSgtlzsU_fFvgxzTHN11ZPUI

External links


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Symbol — des Sternbildes Löwe Der Terminus Symbol (aus dem Griechischen: Etwas Zusammengefügtes) oder auch Sinnbild wird im Allgemeinen für Bedeutungsträger (Zeichen, Wörter, Gegenstände, Vorgänge etc.) verwendet, die eine Vorstellung meinen (von etwas,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Symbol — es una empresa adquirida por Motorola que comercializa sistemas de radiofrecuencia computarizada, entre otros productos. El uso habitual de este tipo de sistemas es para capturar por medio de su láser, códigos de barras de tiendas de autoservicio …   Wikipedia Español

  • symbol — 1 Symbol, emblem, attribute, type can all denote a perceptible thing that stands for or suggests something invisible or intangible. Symbol and emblem are often used interchangeably but they can be so used as to convey clearly distinguishable… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Symbol — Sym bol (s[i^]m b[o^]l), n. [L. symbolus, symbolum, Gr. sy mbolon a sign by which one knows or infers a thing, from symba llein to throw or put together, to compare; sy n with + ba llein to throw: cf. F. symbole. Cf. {Emblem}, {Parable}.] 1. A… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • symbol — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. mnż III, D. u; lm D. i {{/stl 8}}{{stl 20}} {{/stl 20}}{{stl 12}}1. {{/stl 12}}{{stl 7}} pojęcie, wyobrażenie, znak, przedmiot kojarzący się z innym pojęciem, wyobrażeniem, znakiem, przedmiotem, pełniący funkcję zastępczą… …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • Symbol — Sn std. (15. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus l. symbolum, dieses aus gr. sýmbolon, eigentlich: Erkennungszeichen zwischen Gastfreunden (u.ä.) , zu gr. symbállein zusammenbringen, zusammenwerfen , zu gr. bállein treffen, werfen und gr. syn . Für das …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • symbol — [sim′bəl] n. [< Fr & L: Fr symbole < L symbolus, symbolum < Gr symbolon, token, pledge, sign by which one infers a thing < symballein, to throw together, compare < syn , together + ballein, to throw: see BALL2] 1. something that… …   English World dictionary

  • Symbol — Sym bol, v. t. To symbolize. [R.] Tennyson. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Symbol — (v. gr. Symbŏlon, lat. Symbŏlum, d.i. eigentlich Zusammengestelltes) 1) Merkmal, Wahrzeichen, Kennzeichen, woran man etwas erkennt, woraus man etwas vermuthet od. schließt, so ein Gegenstand, welcher einem ausgesetzten Kinde mitgegeben wurde u.… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Symbōl — (griech., lat. symbolum), Erkennungs oder Merkzeichen, daher auch soviel wie Parole, meist aber gebraucht gleich Sinnbild: eine sinnliche Vorstellung (ein Bild), durch die eine selbst nicht sinnliche, sondern abstrakte Vorstellung (ein Sinn)… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Symbol — (lat. symbolum), Sinnbild, ursprünglich die zusammenpassenden Hälften eines Täfelchens oder Ringes, woran sich Gastfreunde erkannten, demnach ein Erkennungszeichen, aus welchem sich später der Begriff des Sinnbildes entwickelte. Symbolik ist… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik


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