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Definition: avatar


A graphic identity that users select to represent themselves in a chat, instant messaging (IM), multiplayer gaming session or virtual world. Very often, avatars are cartoon images. In a combat video game, avatars are often images of robots and soldiers. In a virtual world, an avatar can be a realistic photo-like image, a character mildly resembling the person, a cartoon or a symbol of anything.

Ancient Hindu Meaning
Coined in the gaming and 3D chat worlds, avatar is a Sanskrit word that means the incarnation of a god on earth. See VRML and digital twin.




Cartoon Avatars
These avatars are from AvatarDB, an earlier website that offered more than 50,000 images arranged by category.






A Realistic Avatar
Avatars can be created that look just like the person they represent or a facsimile thereof. In virtual worlds, such as this Second Life example, users can generally recreate themselves by choosing attributes such as skin color, head shape and hair style, as well as articles of clothing. See Second Life.