An icon is a visual representation of something. An icon can represent a person, place, object, idea, business, group of people, or other noun. Iconicity is the use of an icon to stand for something else.

Icons and Iconicity

An icon can be a visual image such as a logo, or an icon can be a person who represents an idea or style.
The form of an icon can suggest its meaning, and might simply be a shorter way of communicating something, such as a numerical representation of a written out number or a shorthand symbol.
Iconicity, refers to the ability of a visual representation to signify what it stands for.

Everyday Examples of Iconicity

Some examples of iconicity are below.

  • “Nooooo!” The extra letters add length to the word, signifying that the word is stretched out when spoken.
  • 1791 is a representation of the year Seventeen Hundred and Ninety-One.
  • A picture of an apple is a representation of the Apple Corporation.
  • “Chirp” is an onomatopoeia word, meaning that it is a word that represents the sound it describes – in this case, the sound a bird makes when it chirps.
  • In American sign language, the word “you” is represented by pointing to the person being spoken to. The hand sign indicates the meaning of the word.
  • In American sign language, signs relating to emotions, including angry, happy, and feel, are made on the chest, near the heart.
  • In American sign language, signs relating to the way we think, such as understand, know, and think, are made on the head.
  • A handshake represents an agreement made between two people or organizations.
  • A bull stock market is represented by the Wall Street bull.
  • The golden arches are a representation of the McDonald’s fast food chain.
  • The image of a mermaid with long wavy hair and wearing a crown is a representation of Starbucks coffee.
  • Elvis Presley is an icon of the musical style of rock and roll.
  • The red target symbol, circle, or dog with a target around its eye are visual representations of the retail store Target.
  • A picture of a cup of coffee with steam rising from the top represents a hot cup of coffee, and is used in the logo for Dunkin Donuts.
  • Another logo for Dunkin Donuts uses several visual representations for its slogan “America Runs on Dunkin.” This sentence is communicated by showing a picture of the United States of America, a picture of a person running, the word on, and “DD” (stands for Dunkin Donuts).
  • In writing, the three-dot ellipses symbol “…” can be used to represent a person pausing or trailing off when speaking.
  • A road sign picturing a squiggly line represents the message that the road ahead is a winding one.
  • A road sign showing an image of a deer or other animal communicates the message that those animals may be on the road.
  • A sign outside of a restroom showing a picture of a man or a woman shows which restroom is for men and which one is for women.
  • A person’s initials symbolize the name of a person without writing out that name; JFK symbolizes the person of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
  • Some professions are represented by visual symbols, such as a staff with a snake curled around it symbolizes a doctor.

Now you have lots of examples of iconicity.

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