… I had observed that the most frequently useful division of signs is by trichotomy into firstly Likenesses, or, as I prefer to say, Icons, which serve to represent their objects only in so far as they resemble them in themselves; secondly, Indices, which represent their objects independently of any resemblance to them, only by virtue of real connections with them, and thirdly Symbols, which represent their objects, independently alike of any resemblance or any real connection, because dispositions or factitious habits of their interpreters insure their being so understood.
… an analysis of the essence of a sign, (stretching that word to its widest limits, as anything which, being determined by an object, determines an interpretation to determination, through it, by the same object), leads to a proof that every sign is determined by its object, either first, by partaking in the characters of the object, when I call the sign an Icon; secondly, by being really and in its individual existence connected with the individual object, when I call the sign an Index; thirdly, by more or less approximate certainty that it will be interpreted as denoting the object, in consequence of a habit (which term I use as including a natural disposition), when I call the sign a Symbol. [—] A Symbol incorporates a habit, and is indispensable to the application of any intellectual habit, at least. Moreover, Symbols afford the means of thinking about thoughts in ways in which we could not otherwise think of them. They enable us, for example, to create Abstractions, without which we should lack a great engine of discovery. These enable us to count; they teach us that collections are individuals (individual = individual object), and in many respects they are the very warp of reason. But since symbols rest exclusively on habits already definitely formed but not furnishing any observation even of themselves, and since knowledge is habit, they do not enable us to add to our knowledge even so much as a necessary consequent, unless by means of a definite preformed habit.
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.
I define a Symbol as a sign which is determined by its dynamic object only in the sense that it will be so interpreted. It thus depends either upon a convention, a habit, or a natural disposition of its interpretant, or of the field of its interpretant (that of which the interpretant is a determination).
A symbol is a representamen whose special significance or fitness to represent just what it does represent lies in nothing but the very fact of there being a habit, disposition, or other effective general rule that it will be so interpreted. Take, for example, the word “man.” These three letters are not in the least like a man; nor is the sound with which they are associated. Neither is the word existentially connected with any man as an index. It cannot be so, since the word is not an existence at all. The word does not consist of three films of ink. If the word “man” occurs hundreds of times in a book of which myriads of copies are printed, all those millions of triplets of patches of ink are embodiments of one and the same word. I call each of those embodiments a replica of the symbol. This shows that the word is not a thing. What is its nature? It consists in the really working general rule that three such patches seen by a person who knows English will effect his conduct and thoughts according to a rule.
A symbol is a representamen which fulfills its function regardless of any similarity or analogy with its object and equally regardless of any factual connection therewith, but solely and simply because it will be interpreted to be a representamen. Such for example is any general word, sentence, or book.
A Symbol is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes by virtue of a law, usually an association of general ideas, which operates to cause the Symbol to be interpreted as referring to that Object. It is thus itself a general type or law, that is, is a legisign. As such it acts through a replica. Not only is it general itself, but the Object to which it refers is of a general nature. Now that which is general has its being in the instances which it will determine. There must, therefore, be existent instances of what the symbol denotes, although we must here understand by “existent,” existent in the possibly imaginary universe to which the symbol refers. The symbol will indirectly, through the association or other law, be affected by those instances; and thus the symbol will involve a sort of index, although an index of a peculiar kind. It will not, however, be by any means true that the slight effect upon the symbol of those instances accounts for the significant character of the symbol.
A Symbol is a Representamen whose Representative character consists precisely in its being a rule that will determine its Interpretant. All words, sentences, books, and other conventional signs are Symbols. We speak of writing or pronouncing the word “man”; but it is only a replica, or embodiment of the word, that is pronounced or written. The word itself has no existence although it has a real being, consisting in the fact that existents will conform to it. It is a general mode of succession of three sounds or representamens of sounds, which becomes a sign only in the fact that a habit, or acquired law, will cause replicas of it to be interpreted as meaning a man or men. The word and its meaning are both general rules; but the word alone of the two prescribes the qualities of its replicas in themselves. Otherwise the “word” and its “meaning” do not differ, unless some special sense be attached to “meaning.”
A Symbol is a law, or regularity of the indefinite future. Its Interpretant must be of the same description; and so must be also the complete immediate Object, or meaning. But a law necessarily governs, or “is embodied in” individuals, and prescribes some of their qualities. Consequently, a constituent of a Symbol may be an Index, and a constituent may be an Icon.
A Genuine Sign is a Transuasional Sign, or Symbol, which is a sign which owes its significant virtue to a character which can only be realized by the aid of its Interpretant. Any utterance of speech is an example. If the sounds were originally in part iconic, in part indexical, those characters have long since lost their importance. The words only stand for the objects they do, and signify the qualities they do, because they will determine, in the mind of the auditor, corresponding signs.
The word symbol has so many meanings that it would be an injury to the language to add a new one. I do not think that the signification I attach to it, that of a conventional sign, or one depending upon habit (acquired or inborn), is so much a new meaning as a return to the original meaning. [—]
The symbol is connected with its object by virtue of the idea of the symbol-using mind, without which no such connection would exist.
A reference to a ground may also be such that it cannot be prescinded from a reference to an interpretant. In this case it may be termed an imputed quality. If the reference of a relate to its ground can be prescinded from reference to an interpretant, its relation to its correlate is a mere concurrence or community in the possession of a quality, and therefore the reference to a correlate can be prescinded from reference to an interpretant. It follows that there are three kinds of representations.
1st. Those whose relation to their objects is a mere community in some quality, and these representations may be termed Likenesses.
2d. Those whose relation to their objects consists in a correspondence in fact, and these may be termed Indices or Signs.
3d. Those the ground of whose relation to their objects is an imputed character, which are the same as general signs, and these may be termed Symbols.
The third and last kind of representations are symbols or general representations. They connote attributes and so connote them as to determine what they denote. To this class, belong all words and all conceptions. Most combinations of words are also symbols. A proposition, an argument, even a whole book may be, and should be, a single symbol.
A symbol is a general representation like a word or conception. [—] A symbol is a representation whose essential Quality and Relation are both unprescindible - the Quality of being Imputed and the Relation ideal.
Representations are of three kinds according to their truth or coincidence with their objects. These are
1. Signs. Representations by virtue of convention.
2. Symbols. Representations by virtue of original or acquired nature.
3. Copies. Representations by virtue of a sameness of predicates.
By a symbol is meant such a representation as is regarded as a representation in another system of representations.
Representations whose subject depends upon its object. That is which are intelligible to those who can comprehend a certain character of the object - if there are several objects, a common character. It is this sort of representation which a conception is; and which a word is, after it has once been acquired as a sign. I call this species of representation Symbol.
By a symbol I mean [a representation] which upon being presented to the mind - without any resemblance to its object and without any reference to a previous convention - calls up a concept. I consider concepts, themselves, as a species of symbols.
A symbol is subject to three conditions. 1st it must represent an object or informed and representable thing. Second it must be a manifestation of logos, or represented and realizable form. Third it must be translatable into another language or system of symbols.