Words are unpredictable, and that is what makes them fascinating. Sometimes they begin their life with a specific meaning, and then move into wider use. This is the case of “avatar”.
“Avatar” comes from Sanskrit avatarana “descent” (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- “down” and tarati- “(he) crosses over”, from Proto-Indo-European base *tere- “to cross over”.
It entered in English in 1784 meaning “descent of a Hindu deity”, that is, the incarnation of a divine being on earth in human form.
In a few decades, it was being used for the embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) of a person or an idea, or as a variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity.
Then, in the late twentieth century, “avatar” took on a new life as a term in computer games: an electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user.
“Avatar” is a noun meaning:
1. The incarnation of a Hindu deity.
2. An incarnation in human form.
3. An embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person.
4. A variant phase or version of a continuing basic entity.
5. An electronic image that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in a computer game).
She seems to be an avatar of happiness in her family circle.
He chose a Roman warrior as his avatar in the game.
The phonetic transcription for the word “avatar” is: /ˈavətɑː/
(NOTES: Sanskrit: classical Indian literary language from 4c. B.C.E.; Proto-Indo-European: hypothetical reconstructed ancestral language, about 5.500 years ago).