idol, an object, frequently an image, which is worshiped as a deity. Idols are usually found in human or animal form and may be treated as though alive; they are fed, bathed, anointed, crowned, and sometimes even provided with a consort. Christians and Jews extend the term to include any deity other than their own; theologically, however, idol worship is generally applied to the adoration of what is seen and tangible as opposed to the worship of an unseen spiritual being.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.