SYMBOL, n. Something that is supposed to typify or stand for
something else. Many symbols are mere "survivals" -- things which
having no longer any utility continue to exist because we have
inherited the tendency to make them; as funereal urns carved on
memorial monuments. They were once real urns holding the ashes of the
dead. We cannot stop making them, but we can give them a name that
conceals our helplessness.
-- Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"