iconoclast

noun

icon·​o·​clast ī-ˈkä-nə-ˌklast How to pronounce iconoclast (audio)
1
: a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions
2
: a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration
iconoclastic adjective
iconoclastically adverb

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For the Meaning of Iconoclast, Break It Down

Iconoclast comes from the Greek word eikonoklastēs, which translates literally as “image destroyer.” While the destruction wrought by today’s iconoclasts is figurative—in modern use, an iconoclast is someone who criticizes or opposes beliefs and practices that are widely accepted—the first iconoclasts directed their ire at religious icons, those representations of sacred individuals used as objects of veneration. The Byzantine Empire’s Iconoclastic Controversy occurred in the 8th and 9th centuries, but the word iconoclast didn’t find its way to English until the 17th century. Figurative use came later still.

Examples of iconoclast in a Sentence

notorious as an iconoclast, that music critic isn't afraid to go after sacred cows
Recent Examples on the Web Yet Baker, an iconoclast by temperament, is a mythologist by vocation. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 25 Mar. 2024 Commissioned during a dinner party by Edith Farnsworth (who, as a female physician in the 1940s, was herself something of an iconoclast) as a weekend retreat in Plano, Ill., the residence was designed in the international style. The Editors, Robb Report, 28 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for iconoclast 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'iconoclast.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Medieval Latin iconoclastes, from Middle Greek eikonoklastēs, literally, image destroyer, from Greek eikono- + klan to break — more at clast

First Known Use

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of iconoclast was in 1641

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Cite this Entry

“Iconoclast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconoclast. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

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