icon·​o·​clast ī-ˈkä-nə-ˌklast How to pronounce iconoclast (audio)
: a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions
: 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 For the past few years, the museum has opened its doors to a specific generation of iconoclasts. Kriston Capps, Washington Post, 16 Aug. 2023 Martha, an iconoclast, landscaped in the style of Japanese gardens. Adriane Quinlan, Curbed, 9 Aug. 2023 In place of the images the iconoclasts destroyed, new and inventive art grew. V.m. Braganza, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Aug. 2023 While many venture capitalists view themselves as iconoclasts, some are thin-skinned and lash out at negative coverage. Leo Schwartz, Fortune, 2 Aug. 2023 Either way, Luna’s identity as a Latina conservative with an obsessive focus on the border gave her an iconoclast’s platform from which to rise. Eric Cortellessa, Time, 10 July 2023 Compared to their yoga-teaching daughter, Parker (Nina Dobrev), and her fiancé, Owen (Adam Devine), who’s like a loaf of Wonder Bread in human form, the seniors are veritable iconoclasts — a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde with AARP subscriptions. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 July 2023 Kennedy’s anti-vaccination and anti-government spiel appeals to prominent entertainment and business figures who like to be thought of as iconoclasts. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 19 June 2023 And his vision, forged in the early 2000s after years as a record and publishing executive in Europe, has evolved from the left-field ideas of an industry iconoclast to conventional wisdom as the music business has been buoyed back to a period of growth by streaming revenue. Dan Rys, Billboard, 11 Oct. 2021 See More

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


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


Dictionary Entries Near iconoclast

Cite this Entry

“Iconoclast.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconoclast. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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