avatar

[av-uh-tahr, av-uh-tahr]
noun
1.
Hindu Mythology. the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
2.
an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.
3.
Digital Technology. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.
4.
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.
5.
(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:
1775–85; < Sanskrit avatāra a passing down, equivalent to ava down + -tāra a passing over

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
avatar (ˈævəˌtɑː)
 
n
1.  Hinduism the manifestation of a deity, notably Vishnu, in human, superhuman, or animal form
2.  a visible manifestation or embodiment of an abstract concept; archetype
3.  a movable image that represents a person in a virtual reality environment or in cyberspace
 
[C18: from Sanskrit avatāra a going down, from avatarati he descends, from ava down + tarati he passes over]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

avatar
1784, "descent of a Hindu deity," from Skt. avatarana "descent" (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- "down" + base of tarati "(he) crosses over." 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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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
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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Example sentences
People's own body map in their minds change when they play virtual reality
  games with different avatars.
Since then, my computer wallpaper has been sloths, my avatars in many places
  are also those absolutely charming creatures as well.
Actually, that problem would be easily solved through the use of avatars.
It was great to put names to faces, or human beings to avatars and usernames.
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