elephant

[el-uh-fuh nt]

noun, plural el·e·phants, (especially collectively) el·e·phant for 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.
a representation of this animal, used in the U.S. since 1874 as the emblem of the Republican Party.
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. 2019

Examples from the Web for elephant

Contemporary Examples of elephant

Historical Examples of elephant

  • That elephant an me has been side-partners for fourteen years, an here you come between us.

    Short Sixes

    H. C. Bunner

  • No change, except that the order of the animals is Elephant, Camel, Ox.

    The Talking Thrush

    William Crooke

  • Why is it that any elephant, anywhere along the line, cannot start drinking, just as he or she pleases?

    The Wonders of the Jungle

    Prince Sarath Ghosh

  • This happened and that happened and if the news arrived at Key West as a mouse, it was often enough cabled north as an elephant.

    Wounds in the rain

    Stephen Crane

  • It is as large as an elephant, and its horns of enormous size; and even cave-tigers could not always master such cattle as they.



British Dictionary definitions for elephant

elephant

noun plural -phants or -phant

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
mainly British a size of writing paper, 23 by 28 inches
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

Culture definitions for elephant

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.