avatar n.

a graphical representation of a person in a computer-generated environment (as a game)


  • 1986 M. Morabito Enter the On-line World of Lucasfilm in RUN Aug. 24/1

    Once a human being enters Habitat, he or she takes on the visual form of an Avatar, and for all intents and purposes becomes one of these new-world beings.

  • 1986 M. Morabito Enter the On-line World of Lucasfilm in RUN Aug. 25/2

    The Avatars are to a great extent very much like actors inside this world.

  • 1990 W. M. Simmons In Net of Dreams 2

    Oh, he had been so clever—cheating death by escaping into the Computer. Trading the Real World for a Programworld and swapping his falling body for a healthy avatar.

  • 1991 D. R. Koontz Cold Fire ii. i. 225

    For all she knew, in spite of his claim to be the avatar of God, by day Jim Ironheart heroically risked his own life to save the lives of strangers.

  • 1991 C. Morningstar & F. R. Farmer Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat in M. Benedikt Cyberspace: First Steps 275

    This is an animated view of the player’s current location in the Habitat world. The scene consists of various objects arrayed on the screen, such as the houses and tree. The players are represented by animated figures that we call ‘Avatars’. Avatars are usually, though not exclusively, humanoid in appearance.

  • 1992 N. Stephenson Snow Crash (1993) 35 Neal Stephenson

    The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse. Hiro’s avatar is now on the Street, too, and if the couples coming off the monorail look over in his direction, they can see him just as he’s seeing them.

  • 1992 N. Stephenson Snow Crash v. 33 Neal Stephenson

    The people are pieces of software called avatars.

  • 1993 Locus June 15/3

    A secret but well-paying job. It involves creating a full-body VR simulation of a pornographic scenario involving Egyptian avatars and dead female American movie stars.

  • 1996 Linguistics & Science Fiction Sept. 13/1

    It has the usual cyberpunk virtual reality…with avatars (electronic stand-ins for the computer-using person in question) flipping in and out.

  • 1996 J. Gunn Joy Machine xvii. 249 James E. Gunn

    You have given up your avatars?

  • 2000 K. McLeod Cosmonaut Keep (2002) 318

    The amphitheater at Ephesus—not a bad place for a meeting. This time Avakian had resisted the urge to fiddle with the dials. The scan was recent: ruins, scrub, litter, and lizards. Everyone appeared in their own avatars, a small crowd in a space built for a large one. Aside from that, and the site’s subliminal implications of elite democracy, the virtual venue seemed neutral enough.

  • 2001 M. Pesche in True Magic in True Names & Opening of Cyberspace Frontier 233

    A similar state of affairs exists in cyberspace today; most people are willing to confront the 'bots, mailing lists, avatars, and sundry other denizens of the virtual world as real entities, possessing their own interior natures, but a few—in particular, those pioneers—recognize that these synthetic projections are conveniences of the mind, and wholly under the mind’s control.

  • 2011 C. Miéville Embassytown xii. 218 page image China Miéville bibliography

    ‘What’s going on?’ I said. I demanded to know what she made of our catastrophe. I asked, and her avatar-face simply froze, flickered, and came back, and she continued her meaningless tasks and directionless wit. [...] ‘It’s either a fuckup of some kind or she’s doing it deliberately,’ a harried Embassy ’waregener told me later, when I described it to her. You think? I was about to respond, but she clarified: it might be an autom equivalent of a child singing I can’t hear you, with fingers in its ears.

Research requirements

antedating 1986

Research History
Simon Lyall located a use of 'avatar' in "Cyberspace", 1991, edited by Michael Benedikt, in an online version; Anton Sherwood verified this cite in a first edition.
Imran Ghory submitted a 2002 cite from an article by Edward Hamilton in "Top Technical Graduate".
Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a 2002 reprint of Ken MacLeod's 2000 "Cosmonaut Keep". Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Neil Stephenson's 1992 "Snow Crash".
Douglas Winston submitted a 1999 cite from William Shatner's "Step Into Chaos".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 2001 cite from Mark Pesche's "True Magic".
John Bunnell submitted a 1990 cite from Wm. Mark Simmons' "In The Net Of Dreams".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2011 cite from China Miéville's "Embassytown".

Raph Koster pointed us to Randy Farmer's blog about the online online multi-user game "Habitat", (http://www.fudco.com/habitat/), in particular to scans of "Run" magazine for August 1986 describing the use of avatars in the game. (see http://www.fudco.com/habitat/archives/page01.jpg and subsequent images)

Last modified 2023-10-28 03:03:00
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.