Someone who has come to represent or be a symbol of some ideology, someone who others follow and have deified, but who is still alive.

Preferably with religious connotations.

Tyler Durden, in pop culture, has come to be a _______


This question was previously phrased as asking for a word that would describe a living martyr - someone who has come to be iconic and represent a particular cultural movement.

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    Representing some ideology has nothing to do with martyrdom... – curiousdannii Dec 11 '16 at 13:38
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    @curiousdannii you are right, but idk the word I need. – theonlygusti Dec 11 '16 at 13:42
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    @curiousdannii - martyr - a person who suffers very much or is killed because of their religious or political beliefs, and is often admired because of it. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/martyr – user66974 Dec 11 '16 at 13:44
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    @theonlygusti - you question is clear and correct. – user66974 Dec 11 '16 at 13:45
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    @curiousdannii - OP is asking what they are called when the become iconic...Mandela, Gandhi etc.....but as usual the only thing you are able to do is closevoting and downvoting. – user66974 Dec 11 '16 at 13:47

The word that you are looking for may be icon:

Icon noun [ C ]

  • ​A very famous person or thing considered as representing a set of beliefs or a way of life:
  • Beckham has been one of the country's best-loved sporting icons.

Cambridge Dictionary

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I think you may use the expression living legend:

  • someone who is extremely famous during the time that they are alive.

(Macmillan Dictionary)

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    Why is this downvoted? I like it. It doesn't have the religious connotations I need, but it isn't a bad answer imo. – theonlygusti Dec 11 '16 at 13:34
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    I find it to be a perfectly apt answer. +1. – rhetorician Dec 11 '16 at 13:52
  • Good answer. You could also take the name of a living religious leader. I'm not really up on religious leaders, so I can't think of one offhand, but if we pretend that Mother Theresa were alive now, maybe you could say, "Tyler Durden has come to be a [or the] Mother Theresa of pop culture." I'm not sure, because I never heard of Tyler Durden and I'm not very well up on pop culture or religion. – aparente001 Dec 11 '16 at 23:38

One could appropriate the religious word messiah, not giving it a capital letter.

It's obviously derived from the Messiah (capital M), but has become genericised:

A leader regarded as the saviour of a particular country, group, or cause:
‘the club's supporters have been tempted to regard him as a messiah rather than a manager’


OED has a similar definition, following 1 which is the capital-letter proper noun:

2. In extended use (now usu. in form messiah): an actual or expected liberator or saviour of an oppressed people, country, etc.; a zealous leader of any cause or enterprise.

Their first citation for this use was by Dryden in 1667, where he used a capital letter as was customary at the time for many nouns.

1667 Dryden Annus Mirabilis 1666 cxiv. 29 The wily Dutch, who, like fall'n Angels, fear'd This new Messiah's coming.

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A few suggestions:

  • savior (with a lower-case "S")

  • standard bearer

  • hero

  • champion

  • liberator

  • idol

  • role model

  • an embodiment of ___________ (fill in the blank)

  • the epitome of ____________ (fill in the blank)

  • beau idéal

  • apotheosis

  • exemplar

  • a paradigm, as in "a paradigm of virtue"

  • a god (obviously with a lower-case "G")

  • revered (obviously an adjective)

  • venerated (another adjective)

  • saint

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I'd say: spiritual leader.

It may seem the figure is powerless politically, however, in some religions the spiritual leader holds the actual power. Example could be: Catholic Pope throughout the middle ages or Muslim leaders nowadays.

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