noun \ˈī-ˌkän\
variants: or less commonly

Definition of icon

  1. 1 :  a usually pictorial representation :  image

  2. 2 [Late Greek eikōn, from Greek] :  a conventional religious image typically painted on a small wooden panel and used in the devotions of Eastern Christians

  3. 3 :  an object of uncritical devotion :  idol

  4. 4 :  emblem, symbol the house became an icon of 1960's residential architecture — Paul Goldberger

  5. 5a :  a sign (as a word or graphic symbol) whose form suggests its meaningb :  a graphic symbol on a computer display screen that represents an object (as a file) or function (as the command to delete)

Examples of icon in a sentence

  1. Click on the icon to open your e-mail program.

  2. He has become an icon in the movie business.

  3. a singer who has become a pop icon

  4. The Statue of Liberty has become an American cultural icon.

Did You Know?

In the Eastern Orthodox church, much importance is given to icons, usually small portraits on wood—sometimes with gold-leaf paint—of Jesus, Mary, or a saint, which hang in churches and in the houses of the faithful. The Orthodox church favors icons partly because they communicate directly and forcefully even to uneducated people. They are regarded as sacred; some believers actually pray to them, and many believe that icons have carried out miracles. The common modern uses of icon grew out of this original sense. The fact that Orthodox icons have a symbolic role led to icon being used to mean simply "symbol". Because of the icon's sacredness, the term also came to mean "idol". And once we began to use idol to refer to pop-culture stars, it wasn't long before we began using icon the same way. But for the little computer-desktop images that you click on, the older meaning of "symbol" is the one we're thinking of.

Origin and Etymology of icon

Latin, from Greek eikōn, from eikenai to resemble

First Known Use: 1572

Other Fine Arts Terms


combining form
variants: or


Definition of icon-

  1. :  image iconolatry

Origin and Etymology of icon-

Greek eikon-, eikono-, from eikon-, eikōn

ICON Defined for English Language Learners


noun \ˈī-ˌkän\

Definition of icon for English Language Learners

  • computers : a small picture on a computer screen that represents a program or function

  • : a person who is very successful and admired

  • : a widely known symbol

ICON Defined for Kids


noun \ˈī-ˌkän\

Definition of icon for Students

  1. 1 :  a widely known symbol The Statue of Liberty has become an icon of freedom.

  2. 2 :  a person who is very successful or admired a pop icon

  3. 3 :  a religious image usually painted on a small wooden panel

  4. 4 :  a small picture or symbol on a computer screen that represents a function that the computer can perform

Seen and Heard

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a mode of satirical wit

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