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

And then there's Plaza, the avatar of millennial malaise. Nojan Aminosharei, Marie Claire, "Aubrey Plaza Was Never April Ludgate," 13 June 2018 The implication that identification is a prerequisite for getting an accurate avatar is not in line with Gen Z's increasing awareness of gender fluidity. Madeline Buxton, refinery29.com, "Apple's Memoji Are Gender Neutral — Here's Why That Matters," 5 June 2018 About 70% of what is spoken by the avatar is written out by human specialists working behind the scenes, says Care.coach Chief Executive Victor Wang, while the other 30% is generated via artificial intelligence. Imani Moise, WSJ, "For the Elderly Who Are Lonely, Robots Offer Companionship," 28 May 2018 Cyrus has also replaced her avatar on Twitter, but as of writing, all her tweets are still there. refinery29.com, "Why Did Miley Cyrus Delete Her Instagram Posts? Fans Have A Few Theories," 14 July 2018 Amid this special-effects maelstrom, Wade Watts never emerges as a character, and the taciturn Sheridan is in constant danger of being out-acted by his own avatar. J.r. Jones, Chicago Reader, "With Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg finds his avatar," 29 Mar. 2018 Over the past two decades,Ulysse Nardin has rekindled interest in the tradition with scenes depicting Kama Sutra positions and a 2008 timepiece that showed avatars of Adam, Eve and a serpent coming to life on the hour. Fortune, "X-Rated Watches Are One of the Industry's Most Expensive Niches," 19 Jan. 2018 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

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

7 Nov 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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