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[Gr. eikon=image], single image created as a focal point of religious veneration, especially a painted or carved portable object of the Orthodox Eastern faith. Icons commonly represent Christ Pantocrator, the Virgin as Queen of the Heavens, or, less frequently, the saints; since the 6th cent. they have been considered an aid to the devotee in making his prayers heard by the holy figure represented in the icon. The icon grew out of the mosaic and fresco tradition of early Byzantine art (see Byzantine art and architectureByzantine art and architecture,
works of art and structures works produced in the city of Byzantium after Constantine made it the capital of the Roman Empire (A.D. 330) and the work done under Byzantine influence, as in Venice, Ravenna, Norman Sicily, as well as in Syria,
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). It was used to decorate the wall and floor surfaces of churches, baptisteries, and sepulchers, and later was carried on standards in time of war and in religious processions. Although the art form was in common use by the end of the 5th cent., early monuments have been lost, largely because of their destruction during the iconoclastic controversy (726–843; see iconoclasmiconoclasm
[Gr.,=image breaking], opposition to the religious use of images. Veneration of pictures and statues symbolizing sacred figures, Christian doctrine, and biblical events was an early feature of Christian worship (see iconography; catacombs).
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). Little has survived that was created before the 10th cent. Byzantine icons were produced in great numbers until 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire. The practice was transplanted to Russia, where icons were made until the Revolution (see Russian art and architectureRussian art and architecture,
the artistic and architectural production of the geographical area of Russia. Early Christian Works

With the Christianization of Russia in the late 10th cent.
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). The anonymous artists of the Orthodox Eastern faith were concerned not with the conquest of space and movement as seen in the development of Western painting but instead with the portrayal of the symbolic or mystical aspects of the divine being. The stiff and conventionalized appearance of icons may bear some relationship to the two-dimensional, ornamental quality of the Eastern tradition. It is this effect more than any other that causes the icons in Byzantine and later in Russian and Greek Orthodox art to appear unchanging through the centuries; there is, however, a stylistic evolution in Byzanto-Russian art that can be seen through variations of a standard theme by local schools rather than through the development of an art style by periods. The term icon came to mean "subject matter" in the 19th-century German school of art historical study, and from this meaning were derived the terms iconographyiconography
[Gr.,=image-drawing] or iconology
[Gr.,=image-study], in art history, the study and interpretation of figural representations, either individual or symbolic, religious or secular; more broadly, the art of representation by pictures or images, which may or
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 and iconology.


See A. Schröder, Introduction to Icons (tr. 1967); K. Weitzmann et al., ed., A Treasure of Icons (tr. 1968); H. Skrobucha, The World of Icons (tr. 1971); D. and T. T. Rice, Icons and Their History (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


An image of sacred personages that are objects of veneration; found on buildings.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


a person of major social celebrity -notably in film, popular and rock music or sport – who becomes an object of identification, hero worship and emulation. See C. Gledhill, Stardom: Identity and Desire, (1991) London: Routledge
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the Christian religion (Orthodox and Catholic), in a broad sense, a representation of Jesus Christ, the Madonna, or the saints. The church considers icons to be sacred objects of worship. In a narrow sense, an icon is an easel painting that has a religious purpose. In the Catholic Church icons are predominantly sculptural in form; in the Orthodox Church they are images painted on wood.

Initially, the worship of icons was not a part of Christianity. It arose in the second century, flourishing during the fourth century despite the decree of the Council of Elvira of 306, which prohibited images in places of worship. Many of the church fathers spoke out against the worship of icons, and the Iconoclasts asserted that there was no dogmatic basis for this form of worship.

Icons, unlike idols, are not looked upon by the Christian Church as an identical representation of a deity, but as a symbol, mysteriously connected to it. An icon permits spiritual communication with its archetype and entrance into the supernatural world through an object of the real world. In church practice the worship of icons often develops into idolatry, and the material expression of the icon itself (including the paint) becomes the object of worship. Icons, like fetishes, are given magical properties. Believers often attribute specific powers to various icons that depict the same deity in different ways. For example, the icon of the grieving Madonna allegedly wards off sickness, and the icon of the unburnable Madonna protects against fires.

Icon worship helped strengthen the authority of the church and increase its wealth. Icons appear in Lamaism and several other religions.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
A symbolic representation of a computer function that appears on an electronic display and makes it possible to command this function by selecting the symbol.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, ikon
1. Art a representation of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint, esp one painted in oil on a wooden panel, depicted in a traditional Byzantine style and venerated in the Eastern Church
2. Computing a pictorial representation of a facility available on a computer system, that enables the facility to be activated by means of a screen cursor rather than by a textual instruction
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A descendant of SNOBOL4 with Pascal-like syntax, produced by Griswold in the 1970's. Icon is a general-purpose language with special features for string scanning. It has dynamic types: records, sets, lists, strings, tables. If has some object oriented features but no modules or exceptions. It has a primitive Unix interface.

The central theme of Icon is the generator: when an expression is evaluated it may be suspended and later resumed, producing a result sequence of values until it fails. Resumption takes place implicitly in two contexts: iteration which is syntactically loop-like ('every-do'), and goal-directed evaluation in which a conditional expression automatically attempts to produce at least one result. Expressions that fail are used in lieu of Booleans. Data backtracking is supported by a reversible assignment. Icon also has co-expressions, which can be explicitly resumed at any time.

Version 8.8 by Ralph Griswold <ralph@cs.arizona.edu> includes an interpreter, a compiler (for some platforms) and a library (v8.8). Icon has been ported to Amiga, Atari, CMS, Macintosh, Macintosh/MPW, MS-DOS, MVS, OS/2, Unix, VMS, Acorn.

See also Ibpag2.

ftp://cs.arizona.edu/icon/, MS-DOS FTP.

Usenet newsgroup: news:comp.lang.icon.

E-mail: <icon-project@cs.arizona.edu>, <mengarini@delphi.com>.

Mailing list: icon-group@arizona.edu.

["The Icon Programmming Language", Ralph E. Griswold and Madge T. Griswold, Prentice Hall, seond edition, 1990].

["The Implementation of the Icon Programmming Language", Ralph E. Griswold and Madge T. Griswold, Princeton University Press 1986].


A small picture intended to represent something (a file, directory, or action) in a graphical user interface. When an icon is clicked on, some action is performed such as opening a directory or aborting a file transfer.

Icons are usually stored as bitmap images. Microsoft Windows uses a special bitmap format with file name extension ".ico" as well as embedding icons in executable (".exe") and Dynamically Linked Library (DLL) files.

The term originates from Alan Kay's theory for designing interfaces which was primarily based on the work of Jerome Bruner. Bruner's second developmental stage, iconic, uses a system of representation that depends on visual or other sensory organization and upon the use of summarising images.

IEEE publication.

This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)


(1) See Icon language.

(2) A small graphic symbol on screen that represents an action or a resource such as an application, file, folder, menu or setting. Clicking or tapping the icon selects the item. On Web pages, icons are also used as a link to other pages (see hypergraphic). See emoji.

Often Overused
When graphics-based interfaces (GUIs) began to replace command lines starting in the mid-1980s, icons were often used without accompanying text. In order to use a program smoothly, users had to memorize the symbols; otherwise, they had to hover the cursor over the icon and wait a couple seconds for a text explanation to hopefully appear. Even today, software designers create interfaces as if users never ran anything but their single application, resulting in myriad hieroglyphics users must remember.

iPhone Icons
Apple popularized the smartphone interface and prudently set an example of icons and text used together.
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