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[av-uh-tahr, av-uh-tahr] /ˈæv əˌtɑr, ˌæv əˈtɑr/
Hindu Mythology. the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.
Digital Technology. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.
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.
(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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for avatar
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The avatar of de Barral into Mr Smith had not been effected without a shock—that much one must recognise.

    Chance Joseph Conrad
  • Blood was its avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood.

  • avatar—rathengnir ǵimadhvattsṁ prǵamno yonimaklayattsmtt na viǵyaṅte.

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

  • In the eighth avatar he appears as Krishna and in the ninth as Buddha.

    Ten Great Religions James Freeman Clarke
British Dictionary definitions for avatar


(Hinduism) the manifestation of a deity, notably Vishnu, in human, superhuman, or animal form
a visible manifestation or embodiment of an abstract concept; archetype
a movable image that represents a person in a virtual reality environment or in cyberspace
Word Origin
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
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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
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avatar in Culture
avatar [(av-uh-tahr)]

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

Note: By extension, an “avatar” is any new embodiment of an old idea.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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avatar in Technology

1. An image representing a user in a multi-user virtual reality (or VR-like, in the case of Palace) space.
2. (CMU, Tektronix) root, superuser. There are quite a few Unix computers on which the name of the superuser account is "avatar" rather than "root". This quirk was originated by a CMU hacker who disliked the term "superuser", and was propagated through an ex-CMU hacker at Tektronix.
[Jargon File]
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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