definition of iconoclast by The Free Dictionary




1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions.

2. One who destroys sacred religious images.

[French iconoclaste, from Medieval Greek eikonoklastēs, smasher of religious images : eikono-, icono- + Greek -klastēs, breaker (from klān, klas-, to break).]

i·con′o·clas′tic adj.

i·con′o·clas′ti·cal·ly adv.

Word History: Among the Ten Commandments found in the Bible is the following: “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” In the 8th and 9th centuries, these words inspired some Christians of the Byzantine Empire to destroy religious images such as paintings and sculptures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. The Medieval Greek word for a person who destroyed such images was eikonoklastēs, formed from the elements eikōn, “image, likeness,” and -klastēs, “breaker,” and the Medieval Greek word is the source of the English word iconoclast. In addition to simply destroying many paintings and sculptures, the Medieval Greek iconoclasts also sought to have them barred from display and veneration. In English, the word iconoclast was originally used in reference to these Byzantine iconoclasts. During the Protestant Reformation, however, images in churches were again felt to be idolatrous and were once more banned and destroyed, and the word iconoclast came to be used of the Protestant opponents of graven images, too. In the 19th century, iconoclast took on the secular sense that it has today.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. a person who attacks established or traditional concepts, principles, laws, etc


a. a destroyer of religious images or sacred objects

b. an adherent of the heretical movement within the Greek Orthodox Church from 725 to 842 ad, which aimed at the destruction of icons and religious images

[C16: from Late Latin iconoclastes, from Late Greek eikonoklastes, from eikōn icon + klastēs breaker]

iˌconoˈclastic adj

iˌconoˈclastically adv

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(aɪˈkɒn əˌklæst)


1. a person who attacks cherished beliefs or traditional institutions as being based on error or superstition.

2. a breaker or destroyer of images, esp. those set up for religious veneration.

[1590–1600; īconoclastēs eikonoklástēs= Greek eikono- icono– + -klastēs breaker, agentive derivative of klân to break]

i•con`o•clas′tic, adj.

i•con`o•clas′ti•cal•ly, adv.

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

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