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

In fact, the video — which was directed by Dave Meyers — is stacked with all kinds of religious iconography. Dan Barna, Allure, "Kylie Jenner Transforms Into the Virgin Mary for Travis Scott's "Stop Trying to Be God" Video," 7 Aug. 2018 Warby Parker also found that there’s more than one way to use the rainbow iconography. Cam Wolf, GQ, "The Rules of the Gym, According to the Hot Dudes of ‘Insecure’," 21 June 2018 In words and pictures an iconography emerged, one that used her as an emblem of the general backwardness of Muslims. Rafia Zakaria, The New Republic, "The Feminist Future of Modesty," 12 June 2018 The birds are much loved in Poland and a key element in folk beliefs and iconography. Vanessa Gera, The Seattle Times, "White storks leave Polish nests early after hot, dry summer," 21 Aug. 2018 But Della Valle also seems keenly in tune with the iconography of American upper-crust ease. Alessandra Ilari, Town & Country, "Captain Italia," 7 Aug. 2014 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

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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Statistics for iconography

Last Updated

3 Dec 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with iconography

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about iconography

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


a knickknack or trinket

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