- One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions.
- One who destroys sacred religious images.
Origin of iconoclast
French iconoclaste from
Medieval Greek eikonoklastēs smasher of religious images eikono- icono-
Greek -klastēs breaker
( from klān klas- to break
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.
- One who destroys religious images or icons, especially an opponent of the Orthodox Church in the 8th and 9th centuries, or a Puritan during the European Reformation.
- One who opposes orthodoxy and religion; one who adheres to the doctrine of iconoclasm.
- One who attacks cherished beliefs.
From French iconoclaste, from Byzantine Greek εἰκονοκλάστης (“eikonoklástēs”, literally “image breaker”).