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An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek ἰδέα idéa "idea" + γράφω gráphō "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.
The term "ideogram" is commonly used to describe logograms in writing systems such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian cuneiform and Chinese characters. Dongba script used without Geba decorating is an example of a real ideogram (it is also a pictogram).
In the history of writing, symbols proceeded from ideographic (such as an icon of a bull's head in a list inventory, denoting that the following numeral refers to head of cattle) to logographic (an icon of a bull denoting the Semitic word ʾālep "ox"), to phonetic (the bull's head used as a symbol in rebus writing, indicating the glottal stop at the beginning of the word for "ox", namely, the letter aleph).
For example, the Akkadian sign AN (𒀭) could be an ideograph for "deity", an ideogram for the god Anum in particular, a logograph for the Akkadian stem il- "deity", a logograph for the Akkadian word šamu "sky", or a syllabogram for either the syllable an or il.
Although Chinese characters are logograms, two of the smaller classes in the traditional classification are ideographic in origin:
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