noun, often attributive
el·​e·​phant | \ ˈe-lə-fənt How to pronounce elephant (audio) \
plural elephants also elephant

Definition of elephant

1a : a thickset, usually extremely large, nearly hairless, herbivorous mammal (family Elephantidae, the elephant family) that has a snout elongated into a muscular trunk and two incisors in the upper jaw developed especially in the male into long ivory tusks:
(1) : a tall, large-eared mammal (Loxodonta africana) of tropical Africa that is sometimes considered to comprise two separate species (L. africana of sub-Saharan savannas and L. cyclotis of central and western rain forests)

called also African elephant

(2) : a relatively small-eared mammal (Elephas maximus) of forests of southeastern Asia

called also Asian elephant, Indian elephant

b : any of various extinct relatives of the elephant — see mammoth, mastodon
2 : one that is uncommonly large or hard to manage — see also elephant in the room

Illustration of elephant

Illustration of elephant

elephant: 1 African, 2 Asian

Examples of elephant in a Sentence

by any standard, the new shopping mall will be an elephant and one that is certain to alter the retail landscape
Recent Examples on the Web Guests can wake up to the sounds of nature, spend the day soaking in the outdoor tub, or lounging by the fire pit at night while trying to spot an elephant or two meandering nearby. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 25 Apr. 2022 Lingering just out of sight will be Baird’s tapir, an animal that’s related to rhinoceros and sports a proboscis similar to that of an elephant. San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Apr. 2022 One expert witness said doses of up to 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl ordered by Husel for some patients were enough to kill an elephant. Dean Narciso, USA TODAY, 20 Apr. 2022 The Coliseum has a colorful history of wildlife at its games, aside from the characters in the Raiders’ Black Hole and the A’s mascot, Stomper, an elephant. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Apr. 2022 The sole zebra was eventually placed at Buckingham Palace, where the Queen had a growing collection of animals, including an elephant and some kangaroos, and exotic fauna. Stacy Lambe, Town & Country, 2 Apr. 2022 An elephant curled a beautiful girl inside its trunk and placed her on a golden seat on its back. The New Yorker, 22 Mar. 2022 Probably, a Russian sprinter on prosthetic legs has about as much in common with Vladimir Putin as a fish has with an elephant. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 3 Mar. 2022 Lawmakers decided to go big when naming a state fossil, opting for a fossil of an animal that's roughly the same size as and similar to an elephant. Kaitlin Lange, The Indianapolis Star, 15 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'elephant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of elephant

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for elephant

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French olifant, elefant, from L. elephantus, from Greek elephant-, elephas

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Time Traveler for elephant

Time Traveler

The first known use of elephant was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near elephant



elephant's ear

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Statistics for elephant

Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Elephant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elephant. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for elephant


el·​e·​phant | \ ˈe-lə-fənt How to pronounce elephant (audio) \

Kids Definition of elephant

: a huge typically gray mammal of Africa or Asia with the nose drawn out into a long trunk and two large curved tusks

More from Merriam-Webster on elephant

Nglish: Translation of elephant for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of elephant for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about elephant


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