What is a sign, a symbol and the difference between the two?

1 Answer | Add Yours

cathibee's profile pic

cathibee | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

A symbol is a physical object that stands for something else. An example of this could be something like the sun that stands for joy, or clouds that stand for trouble and sadness. Symbols are often used in literature, and especially poetry, to express what the author or poet wants the reader to see or feel. In this way, it is often used to help the reader experience the author’s emotion or thoughts.


Signs are more closely connected to the idea that they promote. It could be a gesture or word that directly state what might be expected. A thumbs-up sign, for example, is the universal sign that things are alright. Signs can also be words or names to provide visitors with information about shops or merchandise. Commonly, these types of signs can be street or shop names.


For a symbol, it is therefore necessary to think a little bit about the connection between the object and its meaning. This meaning is often fluid.  Signs are generally less fluid and more likely to have a clearer and concrete meaning.


We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question