1. A visible sign or representation of an idea; anything which suggests an idea or quality, or another thing, as by resemblance or by convention; an emblem; a representation; a type; a figure; as, the lion is the symbol of courage; the lamb is the symbol of meekness or patience. "A symbol is a sign included in the idea which it represents, e.g, an actual part chosen to represent the whole, or a lower form or species used as the representative of a higher in the same kind." (Coleridge)

2. <mathematics> Any character used to represent a quantity, an operation, a relation, or an abbreviation.

In crystallography, the symbol of a plane is the numerical expression which defines its position relatively to the assumed axes.

3. An abstract or compendium of faith or doctrine; a creed, or a summary of the articles of religion.

4. [Gr. Contributions] That which is thrown into a common fund; hence, an appointed or accustomed duty. "They do their work in the days of peace . . . And come to pay their symbol in a war or in a plague." (Jer. Taylor)

5. Share; allotment. "The persons who are to be judged . . . Shall all appear to receive their symbol." (Jer. Taylor)

6. <chemistry> An abbreviation standing for the name of an element and consisting of the initial letter of the Latin or new Latin name, or sometimes of the initial letter with a following one; as, C for carbon, Na for sodium (Natrium), Fe for iron (Ferrum), Sn for tin (Stannum), Sb for antimony (Stibium), etc. See the list of names and symbols under Element.

In pure and organic chemistry there are symbols not only for the elements, but also for their grouping in formulas, radicals, or residues, as evidenced by their composition, reactions, synthesis, etc. See the diagram of Benzene nucleus, under Benzene.

Synonyms: Emblem, figure, type. See Emblem.

Origin: L. Symbolus, symbolum, Gr. A sign by which one knows or infers a thing, from to throw or put together, to compare; with + to throw: cf. F. Symbole. Cf. Emblem, Parable.

(01 Mar 1998)