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unicorn

[yoo-ni-kawrn]
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noun
  1. a mythical creature resembling a horse, with a single horn in the center of its forehead: often symbolic of chastity or purity.
  2. a heraldic representation of this animal, in the form of a horse with a lion's tail and with a long, straight, and spirally twisted horn.
  3. (initial capital letter) Genetics. the constellation Monoceros.
  4. an animal mentioned in the Bible, Deut. 33:17: now believed by some to be a description of a wild ox or rhinoceros.
  5. a former gold coin of Scotland, first issued by James III in 1486, having an obverse bearing the figure of a unicorn.
  6. Finance. a relatively new company, usually less than ten years old, that is valued at $1 billion or more by public or private investors.
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Origin of unicorn

1175–1225; Middle English unicorne (< Old French) < Latin ūnicornis one-horned, equivalent to uni- uni- + corn(ū) horn + -is adj. suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for unicorn

unicorn

noun
  1. an imaginary creature usually depicted as a white horse with one long spiralled horn growing from its forehead
  2. Old Testament a two-horned animal, thought to be either the rhinoceros or the aurochs (Deuteronomy 33:17): mistranslation in the Authorized Version of the original Hebrew
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Word Origin

C13: from Old French unicorne, from Latin ūnicornis one-horned, from ūnus one + cornu a horn
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 unicorn

n.

early 13c., from Old French unicorne, from Late Latin unicornus (Vulgate), from noun use of Latin unicornis (adj.) "having one horn," from uni- "one" (see uni-) + cornus "horn" (see horn (n.)).

The Late Latin word translates Greek monoceros, itself rendering Hebrew re'em, which was probably a kind of wild ox. According to Pliny, a creature with a horse's body, deer's head, elephant's feet, lion's tail, and one black horn two cubits long projecting from its forehead. Cf. German Einhorn, Welsh ungorn, Breton uncorn, Old Church Slavonic ino-rogu.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

unicorn in Culture

unicorn

A mythical animal resembling a small horse but with a long, straight horn growing out of its forehead. Often it was described as having the legs of a deer and the tail of a lion. Some sources claim it was visible only to virgins.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.