What's It Called? Avatar, Thumbnail, Profile Pic,

I’m trying to add some new functionality to my website, and am realizing that before I build anything, I need a better understanding of what things are called, and if they are all the same things or not?!

What is the difference between…

  • An Avatar

  • A Thumbnail

  • A Profile Pic

  • Etc.

Right now, I allow users to upload a Photo - which is really a “Thumbnail” - and that appears in the following places…

1.) Member Profile

2.) Member Posts

3.) Private Messages

In the past I just called the uploaded file a “Profile Pic”, but now I am looking at giving people the option to choose from a list of pre-made “Avatars” if they don’t want to show themselves.

So did my “Profile Pic” just become an “Avatar”??

But I don’t think you really use the term “Avatar” for what is displayed in a Member’s Profile, right?

See my confusion…

To be clean, for now, a Member only gets to upload one WhatChaMaCallIt_, but that could be a <photo> or a <pre-made illustration> that I provide in my gallery.

Anyways, I could use some help understanding what different names mean, and getting the “language & lingo” down before I start building new functionality, because it will impact how I design things!!



A Profile Pic is what it says a real picture of someone.

An Avatar is a made up image that is associated with someone.

A Thumbnail is a reduced size version of picture, used to help in recognizing and organizing them.
(You probably don’t technically want to use thumbnail hear, stick to first 2)

Currently I use Thumbnails for the Profile, Posts and PM’s.

I am thinking of allowing people to choose an Avatar in lieu of a Personal Image (Thumbnail).


Thumbnail is not profile image, you have thumbnails on blogs, websites when it represent some preview picture. Avatar is one image and represent user, you can’t have 5 avatars for one profile.
I was wondering before what was difference between photo, picture, image… Image is like avatar.

for member profile you can have user profile… user control panel…
see some php forums which name they use