When one thing represents something else that's more abstract, it is symbolic, like a cowboy's black hat in western films is symbolic of his sinister intentions.

Images and designs on flags are often symbolic of something about a country, for instance, New Zealand's flag shows four stars that are symbolic of the constellation Crux. We're not sure exactly where the word symbolic came from, because several languages have similar words with similar meanings. The word could have come from the French symbolique, the Latin symbolicus, or the Greek sumbolikos.

Definitions of symbolic
  1. adjective
    relating to or using or proceeding by means of symbols
    symbolic logic”
    symbolic operations”
    symbolic thinking”
    synonyms: symbolical
  2. adjective
    serving as a visible symbol for something abstract
    “the spinning wheel was as symbolic of colonical Massachusetts as the codfish”
    synonyms: emblematic, emblematical, symbolical
    standing for something else
  3. adjective
    using symbolism
    symbolic art”
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