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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 When, in the late 15th century, the Ottomans curtailed Venetian trade in the eastern Mediterranean, the city adjusted its self-definition, turning more and more to Roman iconography, as Mr. Lambert shows. William Anthony Hay, WSJ, "‘Seapower States’ Review: Ruling Over the Seas," 23 Nov. 2018 Provenance Best For: Industrial-era accents and lighting, plus Philly-area iconography. Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson, House Beautiful, "5 Flea Markets to Hit Around Philly for the Coolest Furniture," 21 Aug. 2018 Not only is there divine fashion on display, including original pieces from Gianni Versace and Cristóbal Balenciaga featuring Catholic iconography, but there are also papal vestments on loan. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "The Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” Exhibition Attracts 1 Million Visitors in Just 3 Months," 23 Aug. 2018 Image Brought up Catholic, Mr. Wenders, 72, is no stranger to the church’s iconography. New York Times, "What’s Faith Got to Do With It?," 18 May 2018 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about iconography

Share iconography

Statistics for iconography

Last Updated

26 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for iconography

The first known use of iconography was in 1678

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 corrupt or become corrupted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!