Contextual symbol  A symbol is a person, object, image, word, or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance. A contextual symbol is a symbol that gains its meaning within the context of a specific story. For example, the white whale in Melville's Moby-Dick takes on multiple symbolic meanings in the work, but these meanings do not automatically carry over into other stories about whales. The meanings suggested by Melville's whale are specific to that text; therefore, it becomes a contextual symbol. (See also, symbol)

The definitions in this glossary were adapted from The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Sixth Edition, by Michael Meyer