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giraffe

[juh-raf or, esp. British, -rahf]
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noun
  1. a tall, long-necked, spotted ruminant, Giraffa camelopardalis, of Africa: the tallest living quadruped animal.
  2. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Camelopardalis.

Origin of giraffe

1585–95; < French girafe < Italian giraffa < dialectal Arabic zirāfah, perhaps < Persian zurnāpā
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for giraffe

giraffe

noun plural -raffes or -raffe
  1. a large ruminant mammal, Giraffa camelopardalis, inhabiting savannas of tropical Africa: the tallest mammal, with very long legs and neck and a colouring of regular reddish-brown patches on a beige ground: family Giraffidae

Word Origin

C17: from Italian giraffa, from Arabic zarāfah, probably of African origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for giraffe

n.

1590s, giraffa, from Italian giraffa, from Arabic zarafa, probably from an African language. Earlier Middle English spellings varied wildly, depending on the source, including jarraf, ziraph, and gerfauntz, some apparently directly from Arabic, the last reflecting some confusion with olifaunt "elephant."

In Arabye, þei ben clept Gerfauntz; þat is a best pomelee or spotted .. but a lityll more high þan is a stede, But he hath the necke a xxti cubytes long. [Mandeville's Travels, c.1425]

The modern form of the English word is attested by c.1600 and is via French girafe. Replaced earlier camelopard, a compound of camel (for the long neck) and pard (n.1) "leopard" (for the spots).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper