1 : a picture with a motto or set of verses intended as a moral lesson
2 : an object or the figure of an object symbolizing and suggesting another object or an idea
3 a : a symbolic object used as a heraldic device
b : a device, symbol, or figure adopted and used as an identifying mark
Did You Know?
Both emblem and its synonym symbol trace back to the Greek verb bállein, meaning “to throw.” Emblem arose from embállein, meaning “to insert,” while symbol comes from symbállein, Greek for “to throw together.” Bállein is also an ancestor of the words parable (from parabállein, “to compare”), metabolism (from metabállein, “to change”), and problem (from probállein, “to throw forward”). Another, somewhat surprising, bállein descendant is devil, which comes from Greek diabolos, literally meaning “slanderer.” Diabolos in turn comes from diabállein, meaning “to throw across” or “to slander.”
“The picture, changed or unchanged, would be to him the visible emblem of conscience.” — Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891