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graven image

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noun
an idol.
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Origin of graven image

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

BEHIND THE PHRASE

What does graven image mean?

A graven image is an idol—an object or image, such as a statue, that is worshiped as the representation of a deity or god.

The word graven means “carved” or “sculpted.” Graven image refers to some kind of object or image that has been made to represent a god.

The word idol can also refer to the deity or god that is being worshiped, but graven image is not typically used this way.

The worship of such an idol is called idolatry (or idol worship) and the people who do it can be called idolaters. Like these terms, graven image is most commonly used in a religious context in a negative, judgmental way, implying that the god that the image represents is not actually real and that such worship is wrong or sinful. In this way, graven images are sometimes called false idols.

A well-known example of an idol often referred to as a graven image comes from the Bible. A story in the book of Exodus tells how the Israelites made a statue of a golden calf to worship while Moses was away receiving the Ten Commandments, which prohibit the worship of graven images. Different religions have different interpretations of what constitutes a graven image.

Like the word idol, both graven image and golden calf are sometimes used in a metaphorical way to compare something to an object of religious devotion and worship, as in Many people treat money as a graven image. This sense of the phrase is also used in a critical way.

Example: Followers of certain forms of Christianity are sometimes accused of being idolaters by other Christians, who consider religious icons to be graven images.

Where does graven image come from?

The first records of the phrase graven image come from the 1300s. The word idol itself comes from the Greek eídōlon, meaning “image.”

Although the word idol can refer to a deity being worshiped, it typically refers to a physical object or image that has been made to represent the deity. This is what graven image typically refers to. Some religions prohibit any such likenesses of a deity or religious figure, considering them to be a form of idolatry.

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How is graven image used in real life?

Graven image is typically used in a religious context in a judgmental way.

Try using graven image!

Is graven image used correctly in the following sentence?

“Most people don’t bow down before statues or other graven images, but they find other things to be idols, like material possessions.”

How to use graven image in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for graven image

graven image

noun
mainly Bible a carved image used as an idol
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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