ico·​nog·​ra·​phy | \ ˌī-kə-ˈnä-grə-fē How to pronounce iconography (audio) \
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

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 better episodes of each sprinkle dusty old genre tropes onto familiar Star Wars iconography, until both somehow seem new and sparkling. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 5 Jan. 2022 But a closer inspection reveals distinct iconography honoring the lives of 10 Asian American trailblazers who call those places home. NBC News, 27 Dec. 2021 Many of the pieces reflect Dylan's interest in Americana, featuring iconography like diners, motels, gas stations and railway tracks. Cailey Rizzo, Travel + Leisure, 2 Dec. 2021 When Sony doubled down on the IP (bringing it Ivan’s son, making a reverential remake of Ghostbusters, emphasizing the iconography, etc.), the overseas grosses, Covid aside, substantially decreased. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 4 Jan. 2022 The crux with Lichtenstein—the crux with all Pop art—is how to interpret the iconography. The New Yorker, 21 July 2021 The two museum stores, one in downtown Brooklyn and the other at Grand Central Terminal, use historic iconography of the city’s subways, buses, commuter railroads, bridges, and tunnels to create apparel, accessories, and collectibles. Irene S. Levine, Forbes, 10 Dec. 2021 The iconography of the current regime is far more present. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, 6 Dec. 2021 The testimony as well as the many videos and social media posts introduced were awash in the iconography of hate, with Nazi symbols and stiff-armed salutes, with admiration for Hitler and claims that nonwhite races were inferior. New York Times, 23 Nov. 2021

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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The first known use of iconography was in 1678

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Iconography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconography. Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of iconography

: the images or symbols related to something

More from Merriam-Webster on iconography

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about iconography


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