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I've seen somewhere that "notable" is related to a person or a concrete thing, while "significant" is related to a sign or a symbol. Is it correct?

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Welcome to ELU Clarity. It's always good to include the research you have done when asking a question, for example, if you consulted any dictionaries what did you find? Also you have asked about slightly different words, in your question title you have asked about notability (the quality of being notable), and significance (the importance of something). But in your question you have asked about notable and significant. This answer focuses on notable and significant. With that said...

This type of question is best answered by consulting a dictionary, reading the definitions for the words you are interested in comparing, and then analysing for differences in meaning.

Let us look at notable first:

Important and deserving attention, because of being very good or interesting. - Cambridge dictionary

Deserving to be noticed or to receive attention; important. - Oxford Dictionary

As you can tell from the above two definitions, if something is notable it is deserving of attention, and Cambridge further say this object is interesting or very good. While Oxford state that the object is important. I guess it goes without saying that if an object is deserving of attention it is interesting (because there is of course something that makes it different from those objects that are not deserving of attention). But the key with notable is that some object is noteworthy, i.e. deserving of attention.

Now let's look at significant:

Large or important enough to have an effect or to be noticed. - Oxford Dictionary

Important or noticeable. - Cambridge Dictionary

You might find it interesting to note that all four definitions include the word important. Something that is noticeable or significant is important for the way in which it stands out against other similar objects of consideration.

From experience of usage I would say that the key distinction between the two words is best highlighted in the Oxford definition for significant. Notice the use of the word Large.

If something is significant it is noteworthy or interesting in some way that is not just important, but very important. So notable and significant you can see from the definitions are very similar, and any object that one of these words can be used on, the other can also. But significant tends to convey a slightly stronger sense of importance than notable.

So...

"notable" is related to a person or a concrete thing, while "significant" is related to a sign or a symbol. Is it correct?

The answer to the above question is no, both words can be used on ideas, symbols, or concrete things, although significant is usually used in relation to ideas more often, it can refer to concrete things still.

e.g.

She looked at him across the table and gave him a significant smile. - Cambridge Dictionary

While notable is most definitely used for both ideas and concrete things very frequently.

e.g.

"Her performance was notable". "He was a notable activist of the Civil Rights Movement" etc.

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  • There are different senses for 'significant' (a 'significant smile' is often taken to be one with a hidden [from outsiders] meaning). The stats sense is unique. But the subsense under the 'important' sense 'having or likely to have a major effect' needs bringing out more than by 'If something is significant it is noteworthy or interesting in some way that is not just important, but very important'; some things considered very important at the time just fizzle out. Feb 19 '20 at 19:38

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