Definition of pictograph in US 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.

    • ‘But luckily pictograms by nature transcend language barriers.’
    • ‘Runic scripts are writing schemes which tend to fall in between pictograms and context-dependent constructs like alphabets.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The thing westerners worry about before getting to Tokyo is that all the signs are pictograms.’
    • ‘Early written characters were based on pictograms and ideograms; it is commonly believed that pictograms appeared before ideograms.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘However, three-dimensional figurative depictions soon predominated, with painted pictograms representing symbols, mottos, and accomplishments of kings.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The exhibition provides a history of writing: pictogram, hieroglyph, cuneiform, alphabet, all of these are represented.’
    • ‘Visitors are often amused to see pictograms outside banks informing customers that dogs, ice-creams, mobile phones and guns should not be brought inside.’
    • ‘To conjure power, a medieval alchemist would enclose himself in a magic circle filled with geometric pictograms symbolizing inner realities.’
    • ‘In his hand he produced a worn scroll depicting several pictograms and archaic passages.’
    • ‘The road is covered in chalk drawings: hopscotch and football pitches, pictograms of dolls and soldiers, houses, cars ships.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 Aztecs produced painted books written in pictograms rather than in words derived from an alphabet.’
    1. 1.1 A pictorial representation of statistics on a chart, graph, or computer screen.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘It applies the same rules of simplicity and abstractions which the pictograph shows, but it is not based on statistics.’
      • ‘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.