1. The incarnation of a Hindu deity, especially Vishnu, in human or animal form.
2. An embodiment or manifestation, as of a quality or concept:"Reagan was at his strongest as the avatar of American consensus, peddling a sunny normalcy, a happy-go-lucky and ultimately accommodating attitude"(Gil Troy).
3. A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity:occultism in its present avatar.
4. An icon, graphic, or other image by which a person represents himself or herself on a communications network or in a virtual community, such as a chatroom or multiplayer game.
[Sanskritavatāraḥ, descent (of a deity from heaven), avatar : ava, down + tarati, he crosses; see terə-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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Vishnu as Matsya (top) and as Varaha (bottom)
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.