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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.
Contemporary Examples

“When avatar made all that money, you would get a weird email from Rupert about it,” said the writer.
New York Post Looks Thinner After News Corporation Split David Freedlander July 17, 2013

The president won the last election as the avatar of hope and change.
Obama’s Big Whimper: Four Big Surprises From the Denver Debate Michael Medved October 3, 2012

You know, James Cameron: the director of The Terminator, True Lies, Titanic, and avatar, among other obscure movies.
James Cameron Dives into the Ocean’s Abyss Andrew Romano July 20, 2014

Films like avatar show the complicated power of virtual reality, where possible applications of computer imagery are endless.
Amazing Virtual Buildings Michael J. Prokopow June 25, 2010

As Weinstein sees it, if avatar and Hurt Locker split the votes, Basterds could win.
Why Inglourious Basterds Could Win Best Picture Nicole LaPorte February 16, 2010

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.
The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Edgar Allan Poe

avatar—rathengnir ǵimadhvattsṁ prǵamno yonimaklayattsmtt na viǵyaṅte.
Zoological Mythology, Volume I (of 2) Angelo de Gubernatis

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

In the eighth avatar he appears as Krishna and in the ninth as Buddha.
Ten Great Religions James Freeman Clarke

(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

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.
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.

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]


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