An icon is a symbol. It can be literal—–like the little trashcan on your computer screen—–or metaphorical––as in a singer so well known by ten-year-olds, he's called a pre-teen pop icon.

Icon comes to us from the Greek word eikenai, meaning "to seem or to be like." In certain religions, statues of religious figures are referred to as icons––because they are prayed to as if they were the thing they represent. Icon can also describe a person closely linked to an idea. Mahatma Gandhi is revered as an icon of peace and humanity, while Adolf Hitler is reviled as an icon of violence and hatred.

Definitions of icon
  1. noun
    a visual representation (of an object or scene or person or abstraction) produced on a surface
    synonyms: ikon, image, picture
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    bitmap, electronic image
    an image represented as a two dimensional array of brightness values for pixels
    a monochrome picture made by using several different shades of the same color
    collage, montage
    a paste-up made by sticking together pieces of paper or photographs to form an artistic image
    foil, transparency
    picture consisting of a positive photograph or drawing on a transparent base; viewed with a projector
    computer graphic, graphic
    an image that is generated by a computer
    the images and symbolic representations that are traditionally associated with a person or a subject
    a small picture inserted within the bounds or a larger one
    likeness, semblance
    picture consisting of a graphic image of a person or thing
    cyclorama, diorama, panorama
    a picture (or series of pictures) representing a continuous scene
    reflection, reflexion
    the image of something as reflected by a mirror (or other reflective material)
    CAT scan, scan
    an image produced by scanning
    echogram, sonogram
    an image of a structure that is produced by ultrasonography (reflections of high-frequency sound waves); used to observe fetal growth or to study bodily organs
    chiaroscuro painting or stained glass etc., in shades of grey imitating the effect of relief
    Identikit, Identikit picture
    a likeness of a person's face constructed from descriptions given to police; uses a set of transparencies of various facial features that can be combined to build up a picture of the person sought
    a montage that uses photographic images
    portrait, portrayal
    any likeness of a person, in any medium
    lantern slide, slide
    a transparency mounted in a frame; viewed with a slide projector
    overhead, viewgraph
    a transparency for use with an overhead projector
    type of:
    a creation that is a visual or tangible rendering of someone or something
  2. noun
    special design or visual object representing a quality, type, group, etc.
    synonyms: emblem
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    a publisher's emblem printed in a book (usually on the title page)
    colors, colours
    a distinguishing emblem
    (heraldry) in medieval times, an emblem used to decorate a helmet
    a representation of the structure on which Jesus was crucified; used as an emblem of Christianity or in heraldry
    an emblematic design (especially in heraldry)
    emblem usually consisting of a rectangular piece of cloth of distinctive design
    emblem indicating the right of a person to bear arms
    skull and crossbones
    emblem warning of danger or death
    emblem consisting of an object such as an animal or plant; serves as the symbol of a family or clan (especially among American Indians)
    totem pole
    a tribal emblem consisting of a pillar carved and painted with totemic figures; erected by Indian tribes of the northwest Pacific coast
    American flag, Old Glory, Star-Spangled Banner, Stars and Stripes
    the national flag of the United States of America
    banner, streamer
    long strip of cloth or paper used for decoration or advertising
    battle flag
    a flag that leads troops into battle
    Jolly Roger, black flag, blackjack, pirate flag
    a flag usually bearing a white skull and crossbones on a black background; indicates a pirate ship
    Calvary cross, cross of Calvary
    a Latin cross set on three steps
    Celtic cross
    a Latin cross with a ring surrounding the intersection
    armorial bearing, bearing, charge, heraldic bearing
    heraldry consisting of a design or image depicted on a shield
    arms, blazon, blazonry, coat of arms
    the official symbols of a family, state, etc.
    colors, colours
    a flag that shows its nationality
    crucifix, rood, rood-tree
    representation of the cross on which Jesus died
    a small flag used by surveyors or soldiers to mark a position
    Greek cross
    a cross with each of the four arms the same length
    small flag indicating a ship's nationality
    Jerusalem cross
    a cross with equal arms, each terminating in a small crossbar
    Latin cross
    a cross with the lowest arm being longer than the others
    Lorraine cross, cross of Lorraine
    a cross with two crossbars, one above and one below the midpoint of the vertical, the lower longer than the upper
    Maltese cross
    a cross with triangular or arrow-shaped arms and the points toward the center
    papal cross
    a cross with three crossbars
    patriarchal cross
    a cross with two crossbars
    pennant, pennon, streamer, waft
    a long flag; often tapering
    banner, standard
    any distinctive flag
    St. Andrew's cross, saltire
    a cross resembling the letter x, with diagonal bars of equal length
    Confederate flag, Stars and Bars
    the first flag of the Confederate States of America
    St. Anthony's cross, tau cross
    cross resembling the Greek letter tau
    tricolor, tricolour
    a flag having three colored stripes (especially the French flag)
    a device on a national flag emblematic of the union of two or more sovereignties (typically in the upper inner corner)
    Union Jack, Union flag
    national flag of the United Kingdom
    flag of truce, white flag
    flag consisting of a piece of white cloth that is hoisted to signal surrender or to ask for a truce
    yellow jack
    yellow flag hoist on a ship in quarantine
    ensign, national flag
    an emblem flown as a symbol of nationality
    type of:
    design, figure, pattern
    a decorative or artistic work
  3. noun
    a conventional religious painting in oil on a small wooden panel; venerated in the Eastern Church
    synonyms: ikon
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    type of:
    painting, picture
    graphic art consisting of an artistic composition made by applying paints to a surface
  4. noun
    (computer science) a graphic symbol (usually a simple picture) that denotes a program or a command or a data file or a concept in a graphical user interface
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    type of:
    an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance
  5. noun
    someone who is adored blindly and excessively
    synonyms: idol, matinee idol
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    an object of infatuation
    type of:
    lead, principal, star
    an actor who plays a principal role
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