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[noo, nyoo] /nu, nyu/
noun, plural gnus (especially collectively) gnu.
either of two stocky, oxlike antelopes of the genus Connochaetes, the silver-gray, white-bearded C. taurinus of the eastern African plain and the black, white-tailed C. gnou of central South Africa: recently near extinction, the South African gnu is now protected.
Also called wildebeest.
Origin of gnu
1770-80; < Khoikhoi, first recorded as t’gnu; probably to be identified with ǂnû black, as applying orig. to the black wildebeest
Can be confused
gnu, knew, new. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for gnu
Historical Examples
  • gnu is from the Hottentots, and giraffe from the Arabic zaraf.

    The Log of the Sun William Beebe
  • The lads rushed forward, eager to obtain some of the flesh of the gnu.

    Hendricks the Hunter W.H.G. Kingston
  • So that altogether the gnu cannot be considered as a handsome animal!

  • Suddenly he touches one with the gnu's tail which he carries in his hand.

  • By the by, did you know that Mrs. gnu had actually bought the blue velvet?

    The Potiphar Papers George William Curtis
  • As he said this he looked fixedly at Mrs. gnu, and there was not quite so much laughing.

    The Potiphar Papers George William Curtis
  • But Mrs. gnu continued to be like Rachel, and Mr. Boosey continued to try to amuse her.

    The Potiphar Papers George William Curtis
  • Well, Mrs. gnu, upon my honor, it is no epicure to try to console you.

    The Potiphar Papers George William Curtis
  • Mrs. gnu declined: but I knew mamma would let me go with the Potiphars.

    The Potiphar Papers George William Curtis
  • For instance, there's the animal that has been called the gnu.

    Animal Children Edith Brown Kirkwood
British Dictionary definitions for gnu


noun (pl) gnus, gnu
either of two sturdy antelopes, Connochaetes taurinus (brindled gnu) or the much rarer C. gnou (white-tailed gnu), inhabiting the savannas of Africa, having an oxlike head and a long tufted tail Also called wildebeest
Word Origin
C18: from Xhosa nqu
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
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Word Origin and History for gnu

1777, gnoo, from Dutch gnoe, used by German traveler Georg Forster (1754-1794) to render Hottentot i-ngu "wildebeest," from Southern Bushman !nu: (in which ! and : represent clicks).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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