The Commens Dictionary

Quote from ‘New Elements (Kaina stoiceia)’


A symbol is defined as a sign which becomes such by virtue of the fact that it is interpreted as such. The signification of a complex symbol is determined by certain rules of syntax which are part of its meaning. A simple symbol is interpreted to signify what it does from some accidental circumstance or series of circumstances, which the history of any word illustrates. [–] A symbol is adapted to fulfill the function of a sign simply by the fact that it does fulfill it; that is, that it is so understood. It is, therefore, what it is understood to be. [—] Hardly any symbol directly signifies the characters it signifies; for whatever it signifies it signifies by its power of determining another sign signifying the same character.

1904 [c.]
EP 2:317
‘Symbol’ (pub. 05.05.13-12:01). Quote in M. Bergman & S. Paavola (Eds.), The Commens Dictionary: Peirce's Terms in His Own Words. New Edition. Retrieved from
May 05, 2013, 12:01 by Sami Paavola
Last revised: 
Nov 12, 2015, 17:58 by Mats Bergman