General English


  • noun a graphic symbol or small picture displayed on screen, used in an interactive computer system to provide an easy way of identifying a function


  • On a computer screen, a small displayed image which serves to represent something else, such as a file, program, disk drive, function, and so on. Icons are used in GUIs, and are usually accessed, moved, or otherwise manipulated by using a pointing device such as a mouse.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a picture or symbol that is universally recognised to be representative of something
  • noun a graphic symbol used in computing to represent different functions of a program

Media Studies

  • noun a film or music superstar, seen as a good role model
  • noun in semiology, a sign or symbol that represents a real object.


  • acronym forindexed currency option note
    (written as ICON)

Origin & History of “icon”

The etymological idea underlying icon is of ‘similarity’. It comes via Latin īcōn from Greek eikṓn, which was derived from a prehistoric base meaning ‘be like’. From ‘likeness, similarity’, eikṓn progressed semantically via ‘image’ to ‘portrait, picture’. That was the general sense in which English acquired the word (‘The Icon, or forme of the same birde, I have caused thus to bee figured’, John Bossewell, Workes of Armorie 1572), and it was not until the early 19th century that the particular application to a ‘sacred portrait in the Eastern orthodox church’ entered the language.