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

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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

There were explanations of heraldic iconography, and interviews with people who run charities supported by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Sarah Lyall, New York Times, "‘Stand by Me’: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Are Married," 20 May 2018 Taking Catholic iconography and making it fashion is old hat for Madonna. Libby Hill, latimes.com, "Like a prayer answered, Madonna blesses Met Gala with a heavenly performance," 8 May 2018 Then the star stepped out, wearing gold sequins and a gilded halo, a nod to the religious iconography of Madonna with child. Vogue, "5 of Beyoncé’s Most Powerful Motherhood Moments," 14 Aug. 2018 Far more obvious than current events is religious iconography. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, "Trump piñatas a hit across cultures," 16 May 2018 Egyptian iconography is extremely complex, the means and methods of navigating assorted demons and lakes of fire not for the faint of heart. Christopher Knight, latimes.com, "How good is the King Tut exhibition? An art critic weighs in," 29 Mar. 2018 There were plenty of people who tackled the theme of the exhibition head on with assorted religious iconography. Adam Tschorn, latimes.com, "2018 Met Gala recap: Vatican yellow, cardinal red and religious iconography take wing," 8 May 2018 The palm trees, pink walls, and lush gardens of the Beverly Hills Hotel are as much a part of Hollywood iconography as the sign itself. Brooke Porter Katz, Condé Nast Traveler, "23 Best Hotels in Los Angeles," 1 Mar. 2018 Last night at Cipriani 42nd Street, Her Majesty delivered an engaging speech at the HeForShe Impact Summit—and appropriately donned a powerful piece of fashion iconography that represents the suffragette and feminist movements: the white suit. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "Queen Rania of Jordan Makes a Statement in the White Suffragette Suit," 27 Sep. 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

7 May 2019

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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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