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.

Primary Meanings of icon

a visual representation (of an object or scene or person or abstraction) produced on a surface
someone who is adored blindly and excessively
Full Definitions of icon

n a visual representation (of an object or scene or person or abstraction) produced on a surface

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

n special design or visual object representing a quality, type, group, etc.

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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

n a conventional religious painting in oil on a small wooden panel; venerated in the Eastern Church

Type of:
painting, picture
graphic art consisting of an artistic composition made by applying paints to a surface

n (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

Type of:
an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance

n someone who is adored blindly and excessively

idol, matinee idol
an object of infatuation
Type of:
lead, principal, star
an actor who plays a principal role

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