Word of the Day: Avatar

By Maeve Maddox

Avatar [ă’vətär’] is a religious term that signifies a deity that has taken an earthly form. For example, Krishna is an avatar of the god Vishnu. In popular Western culture, the word has come to have secular meanings: 1. another version of someone or something; 2. an icon representing an Internet screen identity; 3. a person who symbolizes something.

And it is with the Karen that Rambo, once roused from his weary cynicism, throws in his lot. No longer the bloody avatar of wounded American pride, he seems more inclined toward humanitarian intervention — a one-man N.G.O. with a machete. Will he show up in Darfur next? (NY Times)

A player — or resident, in Second Life parlance — navigates this space through an avatar, a digital persona whose features can be adjusted to suit almost any whim (pointy chin, neon-green irises, the thick and full head of hair I remember having for a split-second in 11th grade). (NY Times)

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7 Responses to “Word of the Day: Avatar”

  • David Hamilton

    I first came across this word in another somewhat secular usage: D&D. Many Dungeons and Dragon books and stories frequently talk about gods and their mortal avatars.

  • Daniel Scocco

    David, same here 🙂 .

  • Susabelle

    I almost cringe when I hear this word being mis-used these days. My son watches a show called “The Last Avatar” and it has nothing to do with deity.

    But, meanings of words change and are in flux all the time. I always did see an “avatar” as a representative of someone else.

  • Vijay

    It would be better to stick to pure and correct English. Do you remember what was used before the hindi word Avatar encroached into the English language.

  • addie

    Oh, is that what, “Avatar, ” means? Then I AM using the word correctly when I refer to my little on-line picture:)

    —Susabelle,

    What changes the meaning of a word is mis-use.

  • Nova

    In responce to Susabelle, I’d like to mentionthat the avatar from that show, ‘Avatar, the Last Airbender’ is in a way, a deity taken on a mortal form. While they never mention deities or religous aspects in the show, this is likely because they don’t want to alienate more religous viewers. Aang and the other past avatars have a very strong power so they can keep the peace (probably deity granted). While the exact term isn’t perfect, it’s still not a complete misuse by the makers of the show. Kids, however, have probably taken it upon themselves to make up a new meaning to fit with the show.

  • Rod

    funny avatar is commonly heard in spanish and I used to think that abattoir was its translation in english I was dead wrong

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