Definition of horn in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /hôrn/


1A hard permanent outgrowth, often curved and pointed, found in pairs on the heads of cattle, sheep, goats, giraffes, etc., and consisting of a core of bone encased in keratinized skin.
Example sentences
  • At the end of these two cows' horns are attached, and to the horns two large goat skin bellows, one each side of the furnace.
  • It is like looking at a pair of cattle horns, is it not?
  • At the town's market, I had discovered the magnificent horns of a blue sheep while examining wildlife body parts being offered for sale.
1.1A woolly keratinized outgrowth, occurring singly or one behind another, on the snout of a rhinoceros.
Example sentences
  • Is it the rhinoceros with its aphrodisiac horn and herbivorous browsing?
  • Now what about the issue of rhinoceros and the horns?
  • The soldiers allegedly used the stolen money to buy items as diverse as cameras and rhinoceros horns, the officials said.
1.2A deer’s antler.
Example sentences
  • Solid horns, called antlers, distinguish most species in the deer family from the other hoofed mammals.
  • I ate my first bloody rare steak and you shot the coyote that still hangs in the family room next to one of your other first trophies, the thick horns of a mule deer.
  • You could have been given spider webs and violet fabric to wrap your chancre or sip tea made from deer horns but you were most likely to be dosed up with toxic heavy metals.
1.3A hornlike projection on the head of another animal, e.g., a snail’s tentacle or the tuft of a horned owl.
Example sentences
  • Many living animals have horns or hornlike organs; the list includes antelope, deer, chameleons, birds, and even ants.
  • And I don't want to cut off the horns of a black snail.
  • The creature within is like a huge snail with horns tipped by bright golden eyes.
1.4 (horns) archaic A pair of horns as an emblem of a cuckold.
2The substance of which horns are composed: powdered rhino horn
More example sentences
  • In Yemen, for example, rhino horn is carved into handles used in daggers called jambiyas.
  • Throw a tax cut their way, the argument goes, and like lovers haplessly lost to the aphrodisiacal effects of ground rhino horn, they'll be putty in your hands.
  • To date we've examined over 1,000 rhino horn pills; we've never found a real one.
2.1A receptacle or instrument made of horn, such as a drinking container or powder flask.
Example sentences
  • Horns are used as butter dishes and large horns as cups for drinking mead.
  • Drink was taken in horns, similarly decorated and sometimes with metal tips and rims.
  • My current practice goes far better when I've had a couple of bottles / horns of beer or cider.
3A horn-shaped projection.
Example sentences
  • America's riches are pulling people all along the continent's Hispanic horn on a great migration to the place they call El Norte.
  • Half of the left uterine horn was fixed in Bouin's fixative, and processed routinely for immunohistochemistry.
  • He stood up awkwardly and strolled mysteriously to the corner of the room where a peculiarly large gramophone horn dominated.
3.1A sharp promontory or mountain peak.
Example sentences
  • Amongst the glowing purples and reds of a Saharan sunset the silhouette of Mount Ktrik, its peak formed from two horns, began to look very sinister.
  • But rounding the horn and coming back up the peninsula was another story.
3.2A raised projection on the pommel of a Western saddle: slung from the horn of his saddle was a leather bag
More example sentences
  • Angie mounted her horse, grabbing the reins with one hand, holding them above the horn of the western saddle.
  • At that, Cirrus, who until now had been sitting on Hiera's saddle horn, spread his wings and uttered a single short shriek.
  • When he grabs hold of it I tie the other end to Dartanian's saddle horn.
3.3 (the Horn) Cape Horn.
3.4An arm or branch of a river or bay.
3.5The extremity of the moon or other crescent.
Example sentences
  • The bowed bottom of the anchor recalls the horns of the crescent moon, an attribute of the Egyptian goddess Isis, the queen of heaven and the virgin mother of Horus.
  • The horns of the crescent moon were pointed almost straight up.
  • Also, at high latitudes (close to the poles) the Moon never sticks its horns straight up.
3.6British vulgar slang An erect penis.
4A wind instrument, conical in shape or wound into a spiral, originally made from an animal horn (now typically brass) and played by lip vibration.
Example sentences
  • Around the clock, the coaches galloped down the towns' high streets with long brass horns blowing to warn pedestrians.
  • Suddenly she turned and vanished from the parapet; and all the time the sentry upon the wall blew out the long note from his brass horn.
  • It's the King coming and the sound of those who herald him with horns of brass pressed to their mouths.
4.1 short for French horn.
Example sentences
  • The encore - Le Basque - by Marin Marais, arranged for horn and piano is an absolute charmer.
  • During the summer months, she plays co-principal horn and is a featured soloist with the Capitol City Band.
  • The brass section of an orchestra typically consists of trumpets, horns, trombones, and tubas.
5An instrument sounding a warning or other signal: a car horn
More example sentences
  • Car drivers use their horns to signal their support.
  • In Beijing the sounding of car horns is the exception, rather than the rule while Shanghainese seem to hardly ever take their hand off the klaxon button.
  • In the third frame, the two clubs combined for four goals before the horn sounded to signal the end of the game.


[with object]
(Of an animal) butt or gore with the horns.



blow (or toot) one's own horn

North American informal Talk boastfully about oneself or one’s achievements.
Example sentences
  • We are not trying to toot our own horn by praising the achievements of Taiwan's agricultural technical teams.
  • Don't envy, don't boast, don't toot your own horn - ever.
  • Anyhow - I'm not writing to toot my own horn, I am writing to toot yours.

draw (or pull) in one's horns

Become less assertive or ambitious.
Example sentences
  • This is not an argument for pulling in our horns.
  • Nonetheless, what we should do is to make a serious analytical effort to determine what overseas military commitments make sense and where we should pull in our horns.
  • A leader emboldened by four more years, with a greater mandate, is hardly likely to pull in his horns.

on the horn

North American informal On the telephone: she got on the horn to complain
More example sentences
  • Olympia Snowe apparently needed to sidestep the machinery of legislative liaisons and the Senate leadership and get on the horn and tell Hughes, Card, et al. just what hell was going on.
  • If you live in one of the states where this stuff is being considered, I urge you to find out who your state representatives are and get on the horn, early and often, to let them know what you think of this idea.
  • Get on the horn to British Intelligence and let them know about this.

on the horns of a dilemma

Faced with a decision involving equally unfavorable alternatives.
Example sentences
  • Meanwhile, at the Erinsborough Clinic, the young hairless harpy, found herself on the horns of a dilemma, so to speak.
  • Scottish solicitors find themselves on the horns of a dilemma in attempting to comply with recent money laundering legislation, according to Joe Platt, president of the Law Society of Scotland.
  • The judge admitted he was on the horns of a dilemma.

Phrasal verbs

horn in

informal Intrude; interfere.
Example sentences
  • Then Nelson and David Rockefeller horned their way in, and the spotlight moved to the Trilateral Commission.
  • And never mind the people on the waiting list who were bumped off because someone else with more money horned his way in.
  • Yeah, then we got all these amateurs horning into the field, and felony fashions just went down the toilet.



Pronunciation: /-ist/
sense 4 of the noun.
Example sentences
  • It is likely that these works were written for two accomplished hornists, Joseph Nagel and Franz Zwierzina, who played in the Wallerstein court orchestra in the early 1780s.
  • Marie Masters was the soloist, and the hornists were Richard King, David Brockett, Hans Clebsch and Richard Solis.
  • Jaclyn, a student of D. Bruce Helm, also serves as the principal hornist for the Louisville Youth orchestra, where she has been a member for four years.


Pronunciation: /ˈhôrnləs/
Example sentences
  • This particular type of animal is, indeed, extremely rare as hornless ewes comprise less than one per cent of this breed and total breed numbers are only around 5,000.
  • The modern Irish hornless breed known as the Moylie is typically ‘red-brown with white faces, and a continuous white stripe along their backs, or almost entirely white with red ears and muzzles’.
  • Increases in the mean male body size in a population are therefore predicted to cause increases in the threshold body size that separates horned and hornless male morphs.


Pronunciation: /-ˌlīk/
Example sentences
  • This touch-sensitive work consists of a series of horn-like spikes protruding from two circular discs that are hung on a wall like a painting.
  • Gilmour has inherited Wes Montgomery's style of playing horn-like lines on the guitar.
  • How cassowaries produce their deep ‘boom’ is unclear, though Mack and his team speculate that cassowary communication is linked to the tall casques, or horn-like crests, that rise from the bird's head.


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hoorn and German Horn, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin cornu and Greek keras.

  • The word horn is related to corn ‘a painful area of thickened skin’, and cornea (Late Middle English) through its ancestor Latin cornu ‘horn’. In to draw (or pull) in your horns, ‘to become less assertive or ambitious’, the image is of a snail drawing in its eyestalks and retreating into its shell when disturbed. See dilemma

Words that rhyme with horn

adorn, born, borne, bourn, Braun, brawn, corn, dawn, drawn, faun, fawn, forborne, forewarn, forlorn, freeborn, lawn, lorn, morn, mourn, newborn, Norn, outworn, pawn, prawn, Quorn, sawn, scorn, Sean, shorn, spawn, suborn, sworn, thorn, thrawn, torn, Vaughan, warn, withdrawn, worn, yawn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: horn

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.