ico·​nog·​ra·​phy ˌī-kə-ˈnä-grə-fē How to pronounce iconography (audio)
plural iconographies
: the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject
: pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject
: the imagery or symbolism of a work of art, an artist, or a body of art

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.

Example Sentences

the iconography of the 1960s
Recent Examples on the Web This iconography is consistent with Chichen Itza at the end of the classic period and into the postclassic period (starting around A.D. 900), when the central Mexican version of the rain god began to replace Chaac, the Maya version. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 26 May 2023 Few other avant-garde filmmakers borrowed so liberally or so subversively from popular iconography. Dennis Lim, New York Times, 24 May 2023 And in a unique design format, the set builds into a shadow box that opens up to reveal a highly detailed Batcave with display pieces and Batman iconography. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 May 2023 The primary accents invoke retro arcades, with clear iconography and colors. Anthony Karcz, Forbes, 4 May 2023 Mercury’s affinity for the iconography of the Royal Family, incidentally, was sincere. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 26 Apr. 2023 That evidence comes in the form of tomb inscriptions of prominent warriors, as well as inscriptions and iconography on temple reliefs. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 7 Apr. 2023 Versace has a touch for creating clothes that reference another era’s iconography without seeming costumey. Rachel Tashjian, Harper's BAZAAR, 9 Mar. 2023 Just look at the influence of their entire brand — Eddie the Head, those album covers, and their iconography. Vulture, 8 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'iconography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1678, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of iconography was in 1678

Dictionary Entries Near iconography

Cite this Entry

“Iconography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconography. Accessed 10 Jun. 2023.

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