ico·nog·ra·phy | \ˌī-kə-ˈnä-grə-fē \
plural iconographies

Definition of iconography 

1 : the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject

2 : pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject

3 : the imagery or symbolism of a work of art, an artist, or a body of art

4 : iconology

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Did You Know?

If you saw a 17th-century painting of a man writing at a desk with a lion at his feet, would you know you were looking at St. Jerome, translator of the Bible, who, according to legend, once pulled a thorn from the paw of a lion, which thereafter became his devoted friend? And if a painting showed a young woman reclining on a bed with a shower of gold descending on her, would you recognize her as Danaë, locked up in a tower to keep her away from the lustful Zeus, who then managed to gain access to her by transforming himself into golden light (or golden coins)? An iconographic approach to art can make museum-going a lot of fun—and amateur iconographers know there are also plenty of symbols lurking in the images that advertisers bombard us with daily.

Examples of iconography in a Sentence

the iconography of the 1960s

Recent Examples on the Web

The books confirm artists who used the various platforms to comment on commercialism, brand identity and pop music iconography. Randall Roberts, latimes.com, "The Art of De-Evolution: Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale discuss two new books that celebrate punk band Devo's visual work," 12 July 2018 The iconography changes just a 15-minute walk to the west. Adam Rogers, WIRED, "Big Tech Isn’t the Problem With Homelessness. It’s All of Us," 21 June 2018 Drawing the eyes of the world, Olympic iconography is often grafted with larger political tensions of the day. Mari Uyehara, GQ, "How Title IX Gave Rise to the Dad Fan," 11 June 2018 At the time, American brown liquors like whiskey and bourbon used iconography from the old slave-owning South on their labels; the brand Rebel Yell had a Confederate connection right in its name. Mark Dent, Philly.com, "Forget craft beer - Philly loves brandy," 28 June 2018 The act recently unveiled its first official light stick, in the shape of a shining diamond to match the iconography the quintet has used for a decade. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "10 Things to Know About SHINee in Celebration of Their 10th Anniversary," 25 May 2018 Social reform informed by cultural iconography and critical scholarship. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "These 10 FIT Students Are the Future of Fashion," 3 May 2018 The Italian Renaissance is loaded with buildings whose plans and facades are separate entities, each serving distinctive needs of function and iconography and representation. Anthony Alofsin, The Atlantic, "A Defense of the Suburbs," 6 June 2018 Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier look not only paid homage to her role in popularizing religious iconography in fashion, but reunited her with her longtime fashion collaborator, Gaultier, the creative genius behind her infamous cone bra corset. Cady Lang, Time, "Madonna's 2018 Met Gala Dress Is Just Like a Prayer," 8 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'iconography.' 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 iconography

1678, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for iconography

Medieval Latin iconographia, from Greek eikonographia sketch, description, from eikonographein to describe, from eikon- + graphein to write — more at carve

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Last Updated

8 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for iconography

The first known use of iconography was in 1678

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More Definitions for iconography



English Language Learners Definition of iconography

: the images or symbols related to something

More from Merriam-Webster on iconography

See words that rhyme with iconography

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about iconography

Comments on iconography

What made you want to look up iconography? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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