av·​a·​tar | \ ˈa-və-ˌtär \

Definition of avatar

1 : the incarnation of a Hindu deity (such as Vishnu)
2a : an incarnation in human form
b : an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person She was regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor.
3 : a variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity the latest avatar of the conservative movement
4 : an electronic image that represents and may be manipulated by a computer user (as in a game)

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Did You Know?

Avatar derives from a Sanskrit word meaning "descent," and when it first appeared in English in the late 18th century, it referred to the descent of a deity to the earth - typically, the incarnation in earthly form of Vishnu or another Hindu deity. It later came to refer to any incarnation in human form, and then to any embodiment (such as that of a concept or philosophy), whether or not in the form a person. In the age of technology, "avatar" has developed another sense - it can now be used for the image that a person chooses as his or her "embodiment" in an electronic medium.

Examples of avatar in a Sentence

She has come to be regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor. She chose a penguin as her personal avatar in the chat room.

Recent Examples on the Web

Want to control an avatar and roam about virtual words interacting with others? Popular Mechanics, "The Death of the Internet," 7 Feb. 2019 At age 70, Hirono has become one of the surprising avatars of what is known among liberals as the Resistance. Philip Elliott, Time, "Mazie Hirono Is the Only Immigrant in the Senate. She’s Ready to Take on Trump," 17 May 2018 The technology could monitor a living person’s movements, voice, and facial expressions and then later use them to direct an avatar to respond appropriately — perhaps by offering advice or giving a comforting hug. David Cox /, NBC News, "Will 'digital resurrections' let us bring back the dead?," 16 Apr. 2018 Mann’s prophet is William Vogt, an avatar of today’s environmental movement and onetime president of Planned Parenthood. Mary Ellen Hannibal, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘The Wizard and the Prophet,’ by Charles C. Mann," 12 Jan. 2018 Last month, the game sold virtual National Football League jerseys for players’ avatars. Sarah E. Needleman, WSJ, "The ‘Fortnite’ Dance Move That Spawned a Lawsuit," 15 Dec. 2018 As Cosmopolitan Philippines reports, VT Cosmetics is dropping a new line designed around BT21, the band's cartoon avatars. Leah Prinzivalli, Teen Vogue, "BTS and VT Cosmetics Revealed Products from Their K-Beauty Collaboration," 10 Oct. 2018 As Cosmopolitan Philippines reports, VT Cosmetics is dropping a new line designed around BT21, the band's cartoon avatars. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "BTS and K-Beauty Brand VT Cosmetics Is Launching More Makeup," 10 Oct. 2018 After designing high-profile games, including the Sims, Franklin, 47, joined Facebook in 2016 to perfect Oculus avatars. Alyson Krueger, Marie Claire, "Can Women Make Virtual Reality Mainstream?," 30 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'avatar.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of avatar

1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for avatar

Sanskrit avatāraḥ descent, from avatarati he descends, from ava- away + tarati he crosses over — more at ukase, through entry 1

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Statistics for avatar

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for avatar

The first known use of avatar was in 1784

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More Definitions for avatar



English Language Learners Definition of avatar

Hinduism : the human or animal form of a Hindu god on earth
formal : someone who represents a type of person, an idea, or a quality
computers : a small picture that represents a computer user in a game, on the Internet, etc.

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More from Merriam-Webster on avatar

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with avatar

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for avatar

Spanish Central: Translation of avatar

Nglish: Translation of avatar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of avatar for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about avatar

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