elephant

[el-uh-fuh nt]
See more synonyms for elephant on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural el·e·phants, (especially collectively) el·e·phant for 1.
  1. either of two large, five-toed pachyderms of the family Elephantidae, characterized by a long, prehensile trunk formed of the nose and upper lip, including Loxodonta africana (African elephant), with enormous flapping ears, two fingerlike projections at the end of the trunk, and ivory tusks, and Elephas maximus (Indian elephant), with smaller ears, one projection at the end of the trunk, and ivory tusks almost exclusively in males: L. africana is threatened; E. maximus is endangered.
  2. a representation of this animal, used in the U.S. since 1874 as the emblem of the Republican Party.
  3. white elephant.
  4. Chiefly British. a size of drawing or writing paper, 23 × 28 inches (58 × 71 cm).

Origin of elephant

1250–1300; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin elephantus < Greek elephant- (stem of eléphās) elephant; replacing Middle English olifaunt < Anglo-French < Vulgar Latin *olifantus, for Latin elephantus (with regular Latin o from e before dark l)
Related formsel·e·phan·toid, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for elephant

boar, pachyderm, mammoth, tusker, mastodon

Examples from the Web for elephant

Contemporary Examples of elephant

Historical Examples of elephant

  • These attack you—but run—at least the tiger, not the elephant, when you go out after him.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • He will never fly at your elephant, or climb a tree, or take to the water after you!

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • New-Haven enjoys an elephant that has corns, and is about to be operated on by a chiropodist.

  • People have so much to say about an ant's strength, and an elephant's, and a locomotive's.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • Asked how he knew that an elephant was going on a journey, the illustrious Jo.


British Dictionary definitions for elephant

elephant

noun plural -phants or -phant
  1. either of the two proboscidean mammals of the family Elephantidae . The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the larger species, with large flapping ears and a less humped back than the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus), of S and SE Asia
  2. mainly British a size of writing paper, 23 by 28 inches
  3. elephant in the room an obvious truth deliberately ignored by all parties in a situation
Derived Formselephantoid, adjective

Word Origin for elephant

C13: from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephas elephant, ivory, of uncertain 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 elephant
n.

c.1300, olyfaunt, from Old French oliphant (12c.), from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephas (genitive elephantos) "elephant, ivory," probably from a non-Indo-European language, likely via Phoenician (cf. Hamitic elu "elephant," source of the word for it in many Semitic languages, or possibly from Sanskrit ibhah "elephant").

Re-spelled after 1550 on Latin model. As an emblem of the Republican Party in U.S. politics, 1860. To see the elephant "be acquainted with life, gain knowledge by experience" is an American English colloquialism from 1835.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

elephant in Culture

elephant

A symbol (see also symbol) of the Republican party, introduced in a series of political cartoons by Thomas Nast during the congressional elections of 1874. (Compare donkey.)

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.

Idioms and Phrases with elephant

elephant

see see the elephant; white elephant.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.