Difference between Sign and Symbol

What do you think of when you see this ( $) ? With what do you associate the image of a white dove? What makes you think we are asking you questions? As you think about these questions, we inform you that symbols and signs (as you may have realized) are an important part of our way of communicating with others. These allow us to transmit even very abstract ideas or feelings that we do not always know how to express, likewise, some become part of certain or all cultures.  Difference between Sign and Symbol

Symbols and signs can be found everywhere: on the street, in shops, on vehicles and even on clothing.

If you don’t know the difference between a sign and a symbol, don’t worry; because then we are going to explain what it is.

Note: these concepts have various definitions depending on the context, we will address them in the most general way possible.

SIGN  Difference between Sign and Symbol

The signs are graphic representations that involve a limited or restricted meaning. They are the fruit of social conventions and can be a letter, word, number …

They are informative, advise and offer meanings of things. For example, when you are doing a multiplication and you use an (x). In the same way, if you are writing a story and you end it in three ellipsis (…) you are using signs.

When you read “Hello!”, Even if you are not listening to anyone say that word, you know that it is a greeting that is said with enthusiasm; and all thanks to those two beautiful exclamation points.

You see? signs allow us to transmit information when communicating, which otherwise would be very difficult and perhaps impossible for us to transmit.


Symbols are representations of things, it could be said that to some extent they are metaphors . Its meaning is not limited or concrete as in the case of signs, but they are something more subjective.

They can be a figure or an image, which either by analogy or by convention are used to refer to a reality. For example, a cross is the symbol of Christianity. There are symbols even for chemical elements.

In the world there are symbols that are recognized by the vast majority of cultures and that have become part of our reality. However, being abstract and subjective, they require interpretation and some groups may interpret a symbol one way and others another. For example, the swastika; for many it is the symbol of the Nazis, but in countries like India it has positive meanings such as “happily”, “health”, “successfully” …

Many things can be symbols, even colors; for example, the color yellow symbolizes joy and intelligence. Similarly, a bitten apple has become the symbol of Apple.

Key differences between signs and symbols

  1. Signs have more limited meanings than symbols.
  2. Signs are more descriptive than symbols.
  3. Symbols are mental representations of reality that use certain elements to represent it, while signs are often a complement to transmit information when we communicate.
  4. Symbols are more subjective and abstract than signs.
  5. Examples of signs: the signs of the zodiac, @, ¿?….
  6. Examples of symbols: white doves, red roses, little red or pink hearts, rainbows …

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