Definition of iconoclast in English:



  • 1A person who attacks or criticizes cherished beliefs or institutions.

    • ‘Although the family returned to England in 1933 (after a brief spell in Burma), Spike retained the sensibility of an outsider, an iconoclast and a rebel.’
    • ‘Ulysses recently has drawn the fire of literary iconoclasts.’
    • ‘We will not defeat that 200 million dollar juggernaut with predictable Washington faces or unknown iconoclasts without national security credentials.’
    • ‘Musicians, designers, aspiring actors and other would-be iconoclasts have settled the area, as have young professionals opting for a less-structured lifestyle.’
    • ‘Any healthy society needs iconoclasts, and he sure is one.’
    • ‘Alienated from his children and deserted by old friends during this banishment, Sakharov took comfort in the company of a fellow exile, Elena Bonner, an iconoclast and rebel no less difficult than Sakharov himself.’
    • ‘They're not iconoclasts or anti-popstars to an American audience, but the pop heroes you really wish you could be.’
    • ‘In his last words on Sadat, the author describes him as ‘a visionary, an iconoclast, a maverick, and a gambler’.’
    • ‘Today, the 22-year-old admits that she is inspired by iconoclasts such as Balenciaga, Vivienne Westwood and Junya Watanabe, but enjoys a whole spectrum of designers.’
    • ‘Two of the boldest American iconoclasts were film-maker John Ford and classical composer Aaron Copland.’
    • ‘The people who use this term - usually brave lone iconoclasts posting on website message boards under false names - have great contempt for their fellow citizens.’
    • ‘That being said, it is sad to see these iconic iconoclasts exhibiting less than their expected quotient of surreal mayhem.’
    • ‘Then there are the iconoclasts: people who watch these shows alone and prefer nothing in the way of human involvement.’
    • ‘There are politicians who do not follow these currents, and journalists too, but they tend to be iconoclasts, rebels, not the leaders of opinion.’
    • ‘I always thought of bloggers as being kind of quirky individualists, iconoclasts.’
    • ‘Many of your American films center on unappreciated iconoclasts.’
    • ‘Interestingly, the iconoclasts and the anti-iconoclasts share many assumptions about the power of architecture; they are part of a broader consensus that assumes that architecture can transform society.’
    • ‘Then there were the iconoclasts who dropped by to flip through the books about a man who, in a famous speech in 1929, had declared that no religious organisation could lead man to the ultimate truth.’
    • ‘More and more, African-American iconoclasts reject victimology and embrace American possibility.’
    • ‘Ever a non-conformist to the point of being termed an iconoclast in thought and approach, he was distinctly different and differently distinctive.’
    critic, sceptic, questioner
    View synonyms
  • 2A destroyer of images used in religious worship.

    1. 2.1historical A supporter of the 8th- and 9th-century movement in the Byzantine Church which sought to abolish the veneration of icons and other religious images.
      • ‘In the 8th century, he said, iconoclasts tried to destroy the icon, but a young man, seeking to save it, threw it into the sea.’
      • ‘After the iconoclasts lost favour, and the church once again accepted icons, the painting rose from the depths.’
      • ‘The iconoclasts wanted to rid the church of images, icons, even paintings.’
      • ‘Destruction is, by its nature, difficult to confirm, but all the evidence indicates that iconoclasts in the medieval Islamic world only rarely destroyed images, in the sense of physically obliterating them.’
    2. 2.2historical A Puritan of the 16th or 17th century.
      • ‘Although sacred images were potentially idolatrous, Luther refused to condone the purge and instead counter-accused the iconoclasts by affirming the impossibility of an image-less faith.’
      • ‘But not in Luther's Germany: alarmed by the extremism of the iconoclasts, Luther shifted from indifference to pictures, to positive approval of them.’
      • ‘If official policy destroyed Stuart Britain's important collections, disasters also came at a lower level as Puritan iconoclasts embarked on an orgy of destruction of religious art.’
      • ‘Evidence of religious art is scanty, possibly because of its destruction by Protestant iconoclasts at the end of the century, but portraiture seems to have occupied a position of importance.’
      • ‘Koerner uses it to illustrate Luther's condemnation of iconoclasts - fellow Protestants who destroyed ‘idolatrous’ art.’


Mid 17th century (in iconoclast (sense 2)): via medieval Latin from ecclesiastical Greek eikonoklastēs, from eikōn ‘likeness’ + klan ‘to break’.