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[ahy-kon] /ˈaɪ kɒn/
a picture, image, or other representation.
Eastern Church. a representation of some sacred personage, as Christ or a saint or angel, painted usually on a wood surface and venerated itself as sacred.
a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it:
an icon of womanhood.
a person or thing that is revered or idolized:
Elvis Presley is a cultural icon of the 20th century.
Computers. a picture or symbol that appears on a monitor and is used to represent a command, as a file drawer to represent filing.
Semiotics. a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.
Also, ikon, eikon (for defs 1, 2)
Origin of icon
1565-75; < Latin < Greek eikṓn likeness, image, figure
Can be confused
icon, ikon.
2. See image.


a combining form meaning “image,” “likeness,” used in the formation of compound words:
Also, especially before a vowel, icon-.
< Latin < Greek eikono-, combining form of eikṓn icon Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for icon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • icon well remarks that we are much in the power of our contributors.

  • This was the icon that had been brought from Smolensk and had since accompanied the army.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • Youssuf Afghian kneeled down before an icon in the corner of the room and prayed fervently.

    Dust of New York Konrad Bercovici
  • The crowd round the icon suddenly parted and pressed against Pierre.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • In front of the icon the Gentiles said their prayers, on their knees, crossing themselves all the time.

    The Promised Land Mary Antin
British Dictionary definitions for icon


Also ikon. a representation of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, esp one painted in oil on a wooden panel, depicted in a traditional Byzantine style and venerated in the Eastern Church
an image, picture, representation, etc
a person or thing regarded as a symbol of a belief, nation, community, or cultural movement
a person regarded as a sex symbol or as a symbol of the latest fashion trends
a pictorial representation of a facility available on a computer system, that enables the facility to be activated by means of a screen cursor rather than by a textual instruction
Word Origin
C16: from Latin, from Greek eikōn image, from eikenai to be like


combining form
indicating an image or likeness: iconology
Word Origin
from Greek: icon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for icon

also ikon, 1570s, "image, figure, representation," from Late Latin icon, from Greek eikon "likeness, image, portrait," related to eikenai "be like, look like," of unknown origin. Eastern Church sense is attested from 1833. Computing sense first recorded 1982.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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icon in Science
In a graphical user interface, a picture on the screen that represents a specific file, directory, window, or program. Clicking on an icon will start the associated program or open the associated file, directory, or window.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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icon in Culture

icon definition

An image used in worship in the Eastern Orthodox Church and among other Christians of similar traditions. Icons depict Jesus, Mary, and the saints, usually in a severe, symbolic, nonrealistic way.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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icon in Technology
A small picture intended to represent something (a file, directory, or action) in a graphical user interface. When an icon is clicked on, some action is performed such as opening a directory or aborting a file transfer.
Icons are usually stored as bitmap images. Microsoft Windows uses a special bitmap format with file name extension ".ico" as well as embedding icons in executable (".exe") and Dynamically Linked Library (DLL) files.
The term originates from Alan Kay's theory for designing interfaces which was primarily based on the work of Jerome Bruner. Bruner's second developmental stage, iconic, uses a system of representation that depends on visual or other sensory organization and upon the use of summarising images.
IEEE publication (
[What MS tool can create .ico files?]
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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