Someone to emulate, often someone a parent points out to a child. When the kid gets older, and conscious of the concept, he/she generally does the choosing (sometimes unconsciously) of role models. Often badly. Some want to be Bill Gates, and would gladly adopt his mindset and ethics. Others want to be a cyberspace Beavis and Butthead, as some sort of badge of "cool". The modern role model is usually a public figure, since many parents have withdrawn themselves from consideration.