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

The idea of King Lear’s modern avatar being a media titan is such a potentially fruitful one that Edward St. Aubyn already explored it in his Lear update for the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Dunbar. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Filthy Rich: The Power Plays of Succession," 2 June 2018 In recent years, the sci-fi and horror genres have been filled with post-apocalypse narratives that have attempted to use individuals, often teens or young adults, as avatars for extremism’s impact on society. Aja Romano, Vox, "Why A Quiet Place is the apocalyptic movie America needed," 27 Apr. 2018 Its avatar was a picture of Hartley, and its banner was a picture of Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, and its former owner, Philip Merrill. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "Capital Gazette Shooting Suspect Was Angry Paper Reported on His Harassment," 29 June 2018 When users press a button on the goggles, a three-dimensional, life-size patient avatar appears in a real-life classroom. Leigh Kamping-carder, WSJ, "How Holograms Are Helping Medical Training," 5 July 2018 His latest Fall 2018 lookbook features models—some with heavy makeup, and others who resemble avatars—hanging among piles of shattered glass and car remnants. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Asai Is the Red-Hot London Label Delivering Clothes in Chinese Takeout Boxes," 12 June 2018 And the only thing standing in its way, the only thing between you and the march of time, is Gorrebeeck’s avatar. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "New frontiers of grief, love in Marin Theatre Company’s ‘Marjorie Prime’," 9 May 2018 New Zealand artificial intelligence expert FaceMe was hired to create the interactive avatar of Kalt that will meet with clients via television screen. Mckenna Moore, Fortune, "UBS Digitally Cloned Its Chief Economist So He Wouldn't Miss His Meetings," 5 July 2018 Far from seeming extraordinary, men and women in capes, masks and electronic suits have now become avatars of the unimaginative and the commonplace — a development that Bird and his collaborators could hardly have anticipated. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "How the dazzling, overstuffed ‘Incredibles 2’ holds up a cracked mirror to present-day reality," 4 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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Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for avatar

The first known use of avatar was in 1784

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English Language Learners Definition of avatar

Hinduism : the human or animal form of a Hindu god on earth

: 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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