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

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 Sitaras will discuss the church’s mosaics, iconography and Byzantine architecture. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Aug. 2022 The movie itself feels like performance art too, one that recalls both soft-focus Lifetime iconography and the night-terror shenanigans of last year's Adam Driver-Marion Cotillard puppet musical Annette. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 8 Apr. 2022 This is undoubtedly part of the reason that OUR’s fundraising ballooned during the year of the #SaveTheChildren marches, which took place across the country and often featured QAnon iconography and slogans. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 24 Mar. 2022 And to purge the state’s history, iconography and culture of all traces of Reconstruction. al, 16 Feb. 2022 Mostly, though, those sensible nudges were buried under a wave of RBG iconography and suggestions that Ginsburg's left-of-center critics were being sexist. Joel Mathis, The Week, 2 Sep. 2021 Since the Confederate memorials of Monument Avenue began coming down two years ago — part of a national reckoning with racist, offensive and historically false iconography — Richmond has emerged as a locus for innovative public history. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 19 July 2022 The swastika, when softer, non-angled, left-facing or decorated with dots, has a very different meaning in the iconography of several Asian religions, where it has been ingrained for thousands of years. NBC News, 25 Mar. 2022 And then Neysa came up with the beautiful iconography based on each family member’s gift. ELLE, 3 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of iconography was in 1678

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Last Updated

16 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Iconography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iconography. Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on iconography

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about iconography


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