AskDefine | Define incarnate

Dictionary Definition

incarnate adj
1 possessing or existing in bodily form; "what seemed corporal melted as breath into the wind"- Shakespeare; "an incarnate spirit"; "`corporate' is an archaic term" [syn: bodied, corporal, corporate, embodied]
2 invested with a bodily form especially of a human body; "a monarch...regarded as a god incarnate"


1 make concrete and real [ant: disincarnate]
2 represent in bodily form; "He embodies all that is evil wrong with the system"; "The painting substantiates the feelings of the artist" [syn: body forth, embody, substantiate]

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

From ecclesiastical incarnatus, past participle of incarnari, from in- + caro.


  • /ɪnˈkɑ:neɪt/, /ɪnˈkɑ:nət/


  1. Embodied in flesh; given a bodily, especially a human, form; personified.
  2. Flesh-colored, crimson.

Etymology 2

From the past participle stem of incarnare, from in- + caro.


  • /ˈɪnkɑ:neɪt/, /ɪnˈkɑ:neɪt/


  1. In the context of "obsolete|intransitive": To incarn; to become covered with flesh, to heal over.
  2. To make carnal, to reduce the spiritual nature of.
  3. To embody in flesh, invest with a bodily, especially a human, form.
  4. To put into or represent in a concrete form, as an idea.


Derived terms



  1. Form of Second-person plural present tense, incarnare
  2. Form of Second-person plural imperative, incarnare#Italian|incarnare

Extensive Definition

Incarnation which literally means embodied in flesh, refers to the conception and birth of a sentient creature (generally a human) who is the material manifestation of an entity or force whose original nature is immaterial.
In its religious context the word is used to mean the descent of a divine being or the Supreme Being (God) in human form on Earth. While Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are perhaps the most widely-known traditions to employ this concept within the context of their respective belief systems, they are by no means the only ones to do so.

Ancient Egypt

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt were sometimes said to be incarnations of the gods Horus and Ra.


In the Buddhist tradition, an incarnation is a person believed to be the next rebirth of someone deceased, in most cases a lama or other important master/teacher. This concept differs from reincarnation in Hduism, however, since the Buddhist teaching of anatta (non-self) implies that there is no fixed soul that could move from one life to another.


The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is central to the traditional Christian faith as held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and most Protestants. Briefly, it is the belief that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, also known as the Son or the Logos (Word), "became flesh" when he was miraculously conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In the Incarnation, the divine nature of the Son of God was perfectly united with human nature in one divine Person. This person, Jesus, some churches believe was both truly God and truly man. This doctrine is specifically referenced in the Bible in John 1:14 and Colossians 2:9. It is known as the hypostatic union.


The term avatara literally means "descent" and usually implies a deliberate descent into lower realms of existence for special purposes. It is not a synonym of incarnation, as the incarnation presumes taking a material body, but the word avatara also assumes descent in the original form. Many denominations of Hinduism, such as Vaishnavism and Saivism, teach that occasionally God comes to Earth as a human being to help humans in their struggle toward enlightenment and salvation (moksha). Such an incarnation or discent of God is called an avatar. In some respects, the Hindu concept of avatar is similar to the belief found in Christianity that God came to the earth in the form of Jesus. However, whereas most Christians believe that God has assumed a human body only once, Hinduism teaches that there have been multiple avatars throughout history and that there will be more and does not assume material body, thus some disagree with this assumption.
The most famous of the divine incarnations are Rama, whose life is depicted in the Ramayana, and Krishna, whose life is depicted in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana. The Bhagavad Gita, which contains the spiritual teachings of Krishna, is one of the most widely-read scriptures in Hinduism.


Islam rejects the doctrine of the incarnation of God in any form. In Islam God is one and neither begets nor is begotten. Islam specifically rejects the Christian idea of Jesus as a divine incarnation, but rather sees Jesus as a prophet (nabī) and messenger (rasūl) of God.


Rabbinic Judaism rejects this doctrine.


The Rastafari movement views Haile Selassie as God incarnate, in much the same way as Christians view Jesus.
incarnate in Arabic: تجسد
incarnate in Bulgarian: Инкарнация
incarnate in Catalan: Encarnació
incarnate in Danish: Inkarnation
incarnate in German: Menschwerdung Gottes
incarnate in Modern Greek (1453-): Ενσάρκωση
incarnate in Spanish: Encarnación (cristiandad)
incarnate in Esperanto: Enkarniĝo
incarnate in French: Incarnation (christianisme)
incarnate in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Incarnation
incarnate in Dutch: Incarnatie
incarnate in Japanese: 受肉
incarnate in Norwegian: Inkarnasjon
incarnate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Inkarnasjon
incarnate in Polish: Inkarnacja
incarnate in Portuguese: Encarnação (religião)
incarnate in Finnish: Inkarnaatio
incarnate in Swedish: Inkarnation
incarnate in Slovak: Inkarnácia

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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