av·​a·​tar | \ ˈa-və-ˌtär How to pronounce avatar (audio) \

Essential Meaning of avatar

1 Hinduism : the human or animal form of a Hindu god on earth an avatar of Vishnu
2 formal : someone who represents a type of person, an idea, or a quality She has come to be regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor.
3 computers : a small picture that represents a computer user in a game, on the Internet, etc. She chose a penguin as her personal avatar in the chat room.

Full Definition of avatar

1 : the incarnation of a Hindu deity (such as Vishnu)
2a : an incarnation in human form
b : an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person She was regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor.
3 : a variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity the latest avatar of the conservative movement
4 : an electronic image that represents and may be manipulated by a computer user (as in a game)

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Did you know?

Avatar derives from a Sanskrit word meaning "descent," and when it first appeared in English in the late 18th century, it referred to the descent of a deity to the earth—typically, the incarnation in earthly form of Vishnu or another Hindu deity. It later came to refer to any incarnation in human form, and then to any embodiment (such as that of a concept or philosophy), whether or not in the form of a person. In the age of technology, avatar has developed another sense—it can now be used for the image that a person chooses as his or her "embodiment" in an electronic medium.

Examples of avatar in a Sentence

She has come to be regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor. She chose a penguin as her personal avatar in the chat room.
Recent Examples on the Web Biden is an odd avatar for his party’s changed stance on how to help the poor. Bryce Covert, The New Republic, 20 Aug. 2021 Annette, the fragile child at the heart of the director Leos Carax’s new film, is a perfect avatar for a work that can drift from odd to distressing in just one scene. David Sims, The Atlantic, 18 Aug. 2021 Its avatar in the game, a blonde guy with a goatee, was shown stuck at a bus stop in downtown L.A. Katie Rothstein, Vulture, 12 Apr. 2021 But at almost every turn, Mr. DeSantis has seized the criticism as an opportunity to become an avatar for national conservatives who relish the governor’s combativeness. New York Times, 10 Apr. 2021 Newsom has always been a divisive politician — an avatar of elitist San Francisco progressivism who seems to uniquely irritate conservatives — but the split in public opinion grew into a chasm during the pandemic. Alexei Koseff, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Sep. 2021 Assassination Nation suggests that oppressors are worthy of the empathy of the oppressed, an idea for which Bex becomes an apparent avatar. Justin Curto, Vulture, 6 Aug. 2021 Most of his ultra-high-definition videos feature a single avatar, which the artist dons like a theater costume. New York Times, 22 July 2021 Milly, a video game developer, and Molotovgirl, Milly's gunslinging avatar inside the popular game Free City, in which Reynolds' plays Guy, a background character who becomes aware of his virtual existence. Nick Romano, EW.com, 21 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'avatar.' 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 avatar

1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for avatar

Sanskrit avatāraḥ descent, from avatarati he descends, from ava- away + tarati he crosses over — more at ukase, through entry 1

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Avatar.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/avatar. Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on avatar

Nglish: Translation of avatar for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of avatar for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about avatar


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