[av-uh-tahr, av-uh-tahr]
See more synonyms for avatar on Thesaurus.com
  1. Hindu Mythology. the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
  2. an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.
  3. Digital Technology. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.
  4. Also called avatar mouse, mouse avatar. a mouse that is implanted with cells or tissue freshly extracted from a human being, as to test drug therapies for an individual patient or to study a disease process: Researchers transplanted samples of the patient’s tumor into specially bred avatars.
  5. (in science fiction) a hybrid creature, composed of human and alien DNA and remotely controlled by the mind of a genetically matched human being.

Origin of avatar

1775–85; < Sanskrit avatāra a passing down, equivalent to ava down + -tāra a passing over
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for avatar

Contemporary Examples of avatar

Historical Examples of avatar

  • And is this genial old heretic an American avatar of the monk Bohaira?

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • He had a morbid vision of avatar after avatar being kicked from sphere to sphere.

    The Rough Road

    William John Locke

  • Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood.

  • One attempts in vain even to picture the avatar's attainment.

    Autobiography of a YOGI

    Paramhansa Yogananda

  • But some day it will reassert itself, for it is stronger than we, alike our overlord and avatar.

British Dictionary definitions for avatar


  1. Hinduism the manifestation of a deity, notably Vishnu, in human, superhuman, or animal form
  2. a visible manifestation or embodiment of an abstract concept; archetype
  3. a movable image that represents a person in a virtual reality environment or in cyberspace

Word Origin for avatar

C18: from Sanskrit avatāra a going down, from avatarati he descends, from ava down + tarati he passes over
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

Word Origin and History for avatar

1784, "descent of a Hindu deity," from Sanskrit avatarana "descent" (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- "down" + base of tarati "(he) crosses over," from PIE root *tere- "to cross over" (see through). In computer use, it seems to trace to the novel "Snowcrash" (1992) by Neal Stephenson.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

avatar in Culture



In Hinduism, a god made visibly present, especially in a human form. The Buddha is considered an avatar of the god Vishnu.


By extension, an “avatar” is any new embodiment of an old idea.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.