The Etymology of ‘Symbol’
From: Marina Warner on Damien Hirst in the London Review of Books, 5 July 2012:
The word ‘symbol’ has unexpected but revealing origins. It is derived from the Greek verb ballein, ‘to throw’, as in the geometrical figure of the hyperbola for a cone that’s extended far from its base: thrown wide, as it were, as in ‘hyberbole’. It persists indiabolus, Latin for ‘devil’, where it evokes the devilish work of throwing everything apart and athwart, scattering into disorder and cacophony. Symbol means ‘thrown together’, and it was first used to describe a tally, a coin, token or stick cut in half to solemnise an agreement, which would be concluded when the two parts were joined together again.