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idol

[ ahyd-l ]
/ ˈaɪd l /
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noun

an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
Bible.
  1. an image of a deity other than God.
  2. the deity itself.
any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.
a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
a figment of the mind; fantasy.
a false conception or notion; fallacy.

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Origin of idol

First recorded in 1200–50; Middle English from Late Latin īdōlum from Greek eídōlon “image, idol,” derivative of eîdos “shape, form”

synonym study for idol

1. See image.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH idol

idle, idol , idyll
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does idol mean?

An idol is an object or image, such as a statue, that is worshipped as the representation of a deity or god.

The word idol can also refer to the deity or god that is being worshipped.

The worship of such an idol is sometimes called idolatry (or idol worship) and the people who do it can be called idolaters. The adjective idolatrous can be used to describe idolaters or their practices.

This sense of idol and its related terms are typically used in a negative, judgmental way, implying that the god that the idol represents is not actually real and that such worship is wrong or sinful. In this way, an idol is sometimes called a false idol.

A well-known example of an idol mentioned in a story in the Bible is the statue of a golden calf that the Israelites were said to have made while Moses was away receiving the Ten Commandments (which prohibit the worship of idols or “graven images”).

Sometimes, idol is used in a metaphorical way to compare something to an object of religious devotion and worship, as in Money has become her idol. This sense of the word is also used in a critical way.

Idol is also commonly used in a figurative way to refer to a person, especially a famous celebrity such as a pop singer, whom someone treats with extreme admiration and devotion. The word sometimes implies that such devotion is excessive, likening it to religious worship. The term teen idol refers to a star who is the subject of such devotion and adoration among teens (teen idols are often young but they may or may not be teens themselves).

To be a fan of someone in this way is to idolize them (or, in more modern terms, to stan them). The words idolatry, idolater, and idolatrous can be used in this context, but they are much more commonly used in a religious context.

Example: The trouble with having idols is that you start to model your behavior on them while ignoring their faults.

Where does idol come from?

The first records of the word idol come from the 1200s. It comes from the Greek eídōlon, meaning “image,” from eîdos, meaning “shape and form.”

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

Today, the most common use of the word idol is probably to refer to stars with huge fan bases. The word is used this way in the name of American Idol, a popular singing contest show based on the idea of finding an up-and-coming singer who will become a new superstar.

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How is idol used in real life?

In a religious context, idol is usually used in a judgmental way. In pop culture, it refers to a star whose fans show an almost religious devotion.

 

 

Try using idol!

Is idol used correctly in the following sentence?

Elvis Presley became a rock-’n-roll idol in the 1950s.

How to use idol in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for idol

idol
/ (ˈaɪdəl) /

noun

a material object, esp a carved image, that is worshipped as a god
Christianity Judaism any being (other than the one God) to which divine honour is paid
a person who is revered, admired, or highly loved

Word Origin for idol

C13: from Late Latin īdōlum, from Latin: image, from Greek eidōlon, from eidos shape, form
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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