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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. 2018.
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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.

  • She crossed herself, kissed the icon, and handed it to Andrew.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • Well, he took that icon home with him for a few days and what did he do?

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

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • The crowd round the icon suddenly parted and pressed against Pierre.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
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 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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