We explain what symbology is as a discipline and as a set of symbols. In addition, we tell you what a symbol is and its cultural function.

The World Health Organization symbol combines existing symbols.
Symbology is a humanistic discipline of great importance in the study of culture.

What is symbology?

The symbology It is the discipline that studies symbols: their laws, their ways of operating and their possible interpretations. It is a humanistic discipline, close to literature, psychology and anthropology, and of great importance in the study of culture, since human beings have been prone to constructing and reading symbols since their origins.

It is also possible to refer to the set of symbols used by a discipline with symbology. or a specific area of ​​knowledge. Thus, when talking about “the symbology medical” or “the symbology of the tarot”, refers to the symbols that are traditionally used in the field of medicine or in the illustrations of tarot cards.

For its part, A symbol is a socially accepted representation of an idea.. That is, it is an element (usually graphic or visual) that represents an idea or a set of ideas, and makes them recognizable, manageable and transmittable from generation to generation.

The term “symbol” comes from ancient Greek, from the words without- (“together”, “jointly”) and ballein (“throw” or “throw”), because in classical antiquity this was the name for an object that two people broke in half and distributed as evidence of a debt that united them. In this way, the debtor and the debtor each kept one half, and when the money was returned the debtor also handed over half of it.

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In culture, symbols operate in a similar way: they serve to remind us of some concrete and conventional reference. For example, when soldiers in a war see a red cross painted on the side of a vehicle, they know that it is not a military target, but an ambulance. The same thing happens when someone observes the dollar (us $) or euro (€) symbol next to a figure, since they understand which specific currency the figure refers to.

Symbology is dedicated to the study of the relationships between symbols, either in a practical field or in a more complicated one, such as mythologies. and religious representations of ancient people. Greek mythology, for example, is an inexhaustible source of symbols in Western culture, and these are often studied to understand the layers of meaning they have accumulated throughout history.

An example of this is the rod of Asclepius or Aesculapius, an ancient Greco-Roman symbol associated with the god of medicine and healing, used today to identify pharmacies and hospitals, and in the logo of different international health associations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

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  • “Symbol” in Wikipedia.
  • “Symbology” in the Language Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy.
  • “Etymology of Symbol” in the Online Spanish Etymological Dictionary.
  • “Symbol” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.