Etymology
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avatar (n.)

1784, "descent of a Hindu deity to earth in an incarnate or tangible form," from Sanskrit avatarana "descent" (of a deity to the earth in incarnate form), from ava- "off, down" (from PIE root *au- (2) "off, away") + base of tarati "(he) crosses over," from PIE root *tere- (2) "cross over, pass through, overcome."

Meaning "concrete embodiment of something abstract" is from 1815. In computer use, it seems to trace to the novel "Snowcrash" (1992) by Neal Stephenson.

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Definitions of avatar

avatar (n.)
a new personification of a familiar idea;
the very avatar of cunning
Synonyms: embodiment / incarnation
avatar (n.)
the manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form;
some Hindus consider Krishna to be an avatar of the god Vishnu
From wordnet.princeton.edu