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

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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 And an illustrated edition from Black Dog & Leventhal, also coming Jan. 5, features the flashy iconography of the era. Annabel Gutterman, Time, "'The Great Gatsby Now Belongs to the People.’ What the Copyright Expiration of the Classic Novel Means for Its Legacy," 24 Dec. 2020 Several districts in the Mississippi Delta, too, and in other pockets of the state took down the flag with its Civil War iconography, electing to fly only the American flag. NBC News, "For Black students, Mississippi's new state flag means end of a 'Confederate relic'," 7 Nov. 2020 In a city psychologically defined by a mercurial news cycle and physically shaped by permanent, austere monuments, Absurdly Well’s timely, ubiquitous artworks create an iconography of the present. Washington Post, "For Absurdly Well’s politically charged street art, inspiration is of-the-moment," 27 Oct. 2020 The replacement lid will be updated with new iconography, quick reference instructions, and design changes that prohibit the product from starting unless the lid is properly locked, according to Crock-Pot. NBC News, "Nearly 1 million Crock-Pots recalled after complaints of burn injuries," 25 Nov. 2020 The statue’s iconography reveals the influence of a powerful outside culture. National Geographic, "This 2,400-year-old statue reveals insights into ancient Spain," 24 Nov. 2020 The process was put in place by the City Council over the summer, as racial justice protests erupted throughout the country, with the aim of eliminating much of the city’s Confederate iconography in a single swoop. Jeff Adelson, NOLA.com, "Lee Circle would be Leah Chase Circle under official advice to rename New Orleans streets," 24 Nov. 2020 The Time cover, with its red, white and blue shades, echoes Fairey's past iconography. Joshua Bote, USA TODAY, "For the first ever, Time magazine removes logo on cover, replaces it with a plea to 'Vote'," 22 Oct. 2020 Language, today, is governed by new rules about who can tell what kinds of stories and, increasingly, a substitution of digital iconography — emoji and acronyms — for old-fashioned words composed of letters and phonemes. Washington Post, "Planet Word, a new museum devoted to language, is a high-tech, feel-good experience," 21 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for iconography

Time Traveler

The first known use of iconography was in 1678

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Statistics for iconography

Last Updated

7 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Iconography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconography. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for iconography


How to pronounce iconography (audio)

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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