Middle English. a. Old French. id(e)le, and idole, ad. late L. dl-um (also dl-um in Prudentius c400, Sedulius c470), image, form, spectre, apparition, in eccl. use ‘idol’, a. Gr. image, phantom, idea, fancy, likeness, in LXX ‘idol’, f. form, shape. The early OF. idele, idle (11th c.), represent the Latin idolum, the accentuation following that of the Greek. The current Fr. idole was adapted in 13th c. from L. idolum.
- 1. An image or similitude of a deity or divinity, used as an object of worship: applied to those worshipped by pagans, whence, in scriptural language, = false god, a fictitious divinity which ‘is nothing in the world’ (1 Cor. viii. 4).
- b. Applied polemically to images or figures of divine beings and, more generally, to any material object of worship in a Christian church.
- c. A representation of a deity under some monstrous and non-natural form. Obs.
- 2. fig. Any thing or person that is the object of excessive or supreme devotion, or that usurps the place of God in human affection.
- a. A thing.
- b. A person so adored.
- 3. An image, effigy, or figure of a person or thing; esp. a statue. Obs.
- b. A counterpart, likeness, imitation; = IMAGE n. 4, 4c. Obs.
- c. Aspect, appearance, likeness; = IMAGE n. 3.
- 4. An inert inactive person (who has the form, without the proper activity or energy, of a man). = F. idole, but in English naturally associated with idle = IDLER. Obs.
- 5. A visible but unsubstantial appearance, an image caused by reflexion as in a mirror, an incorporeal phantom.
- 6. A mental fiction; a phantasy or fancy.
- 7. A fictitious personation; a counterfeit, sham; a pretender. (By Spenser used of a magic counterfeit.)