Definition of pictograph in English:


(also pictogram)


  • 1A pictorial symbol for a word or phrase. Pictographs were used as the earliest known form of writing, examples having been discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia from before 3000 BC.

    ‘an ancient pictograph of the Great Goddess’
    • ‘Early written characters were based on pictograms and ideograms; it is commonly believed that pictograms appeared before ideograms.’
    • ‘In his hand he produced a worn scroll depicting several pictograms and archaic passages.’
    • ‘The Chinese ideogram for qi was developed from the pictogram of a pot of boiling rice with the top blown off by rising steam.’
    • ‘The round harp is the classic string instrument of the earliest period in both regions; indeed, the earliest examples of Mesopotamian writing show a pictogram of a round harp.’
    • ‘The thing westerners worry about before getting to Tokyo is that all the signs are pictograms.’
    • ‘Our project of creating huge, authentic-looking rock sculptures covered with pictograms generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest in the study of prehistoric art.’
    • ‘The exhibition provides a history of writing: pictogram, hieroglyph, cuneiform, alphabet, all of these are represented.’
    • ‘From the earliest hunter-gatherer societies that left pictograms on rocky outcrops or caves, the natural progression from the development of speech and language has been the creation of a written or marked form of that language.’
    • ‘The Aztecs produced painted books written in pictograms rather than in words derived from an alphabet.’
    • ‘To conjure power, a medieval alchemist would enclose himself in a magic circle filled with geometric pictograms symbolizing inner realities.’
    • ‘Their pictograms interpret the dark knight as a series of wedge shapes and crude drawings, which we can take to mean ‘man-who-is-a-bat’ when we have become bored with trying to interpret them in any meaningful way.’
    • ‘The road is covered in chalk drawings: hopscotch and football pitches, pictograms of dolls and soldiers, houses, cars ships.’
    • ‘Runic scripts are writing schemes which tend to fall in between pictograms and context-dependent constructs like alphabets.’
    • ‘However, the main reason for the difference between Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Sumerian pictograms came from the difference in the writing materials used by the two ancient civilizations.’
    • ‘Over the last 25 years, the formations have evolved from simple, relatively small circles to huge designs with multiple circles, elaborate pictograms, and shapes that invoke complex non-linear mathematical principles.’
    • ‘But luckily pictograms by nature transcend language barriers.’
    • ‘The Bronze Age engravings in this region are symbolic pictograms, without any attempt at realism; there is also no indication that they should be evaluated as hieroglyphs or ideographs.’
    • ‘The head is a pictogram attached to a human body, a symbolic figure with a beak for a nose, long dirty hair and beard, a triangular yellow hat.’
    • ‘However, three-dimensional figurative depictions soon predominated, with painted pictograms representing symbols, mottos, and accomplishments of kings.’
    • ‘Visitors are often amused to see pictograms outside banks informing customers that dogs, ice-creams, mobile phones and guns should not be brought inside.’
    1. 1.1 A pictorial representation of statistics on a chart, graph, or computer screen.
      • ‘It applies the same rules of simplicity and abstractions which the pictograph shows, but it is not based on statistics.’
      • ‘Create a bar graph, pie chart, or pictograph on a dry-erase board.’
      • ‘So is there any problem with the depiction of statistics in the pictograph?’
      • ‘A pictograph is used to present statistics in a popular yet less statistical way to those who are not familiar with charts that contain numerical scales.’
      • ‘Pictographs should be used carefully because the graphs may, either accidentally or deliberately, misrepresent the data.’


Mid 19th century: from Latin pict- ‘painted’ (from the verb pingere) + -graph.