Definition of elephant in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈeləfənt/

noun (plural same or elephants)

Image of elephant
1A heavy plant-eating mammal with a prehensile trunk, long curved ivory tusks, and large ears, native to Africa and southern Asia. It is the largest living land animal.
Example sentences
  • The sale of new ivory was banned in 1989 to curb the slaughter of elephants in Africa.
  • They will visit Nairobi Nursery, where the smallest orphaned elephants and rhinos are kept.
  • On watching the footage, you start to believe that elephants may indeed be as intelligent as the great apes.
2chiefly British A size of paper, now standardized at 28 × 23 inches (approximately 711 × 584 mm).
Example sentences
  • Further, if we recall the great size of a typical elephant, the figure of Coryate is out of scale, much too large.



Pronunciation: /ˌeləˈfantoid/ Pronunciation: /ˈeləfənˌtoid/
Example sentences
  • A 19-year-old man who had been weighed down by an enormous elephantoid tumor had become so overcome with grief that he tried on more than one occasion to commit suicide by swallowing arsenic.
  • Five patients with varying severities of hyperkeratotic verrucous thickening at the skin illustrate that the condition may occasionally become elephantoid.
  • The elephantoid fossil record, combined with data on palaeoclimate and sea level, indicates when the large mammals may have crossed one of several land bridges out of Africa, into Asia, and back again, reports Kalb.


the elephant in the room

A major problem or controversial issue that is obviously present but avoided as a subject for discussion because it is more comfortable to do so.
Example sentences
  • I also think the Small decisions are interesting because they completely avoid the elephant in the room: the Second Amendment.
  • But the Iraq issue was the elephant in the room, the issue that the two leaders could not ignore.
  • It's the elephant in the room that everybody avoids talking about, isn't it?


Middle English: from Old French elefant, via Latin from Greek elephas, elephant- 'ivory, elephant'.

  • Perhaps surprisingly, elephant did not come to us from an African or Indian language, but via Latin from Greek. The Greek word elephas meant both ‘ivory’ and ‘elephant’. It is found in the work of the poet Homer, who probably lived in the 8th century bc, and may have been taken up by the Greeks from an ancient language of the Middle East. Elephant appeared in English in the 14th century, but before that people called them oliphants or elps. The related word olfend was used to mean ‘a camel’—in those days northern Europeans had only vague notions of exotic animals. See also camel, chameleon, giraffe, room, white

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: el·e·phant

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