elephant

play
noun, often attributive el·e·phant \ˈe-lə-fənt\
Updated on: 26 Jul 2017

Definition of elephant

plural

elephants

also

elephant

  1. 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 elephantb :  any of various extinct relatives of the elephant — see mammoth, mastodon

  2. 2 :  one that is uncommonly large or hard to manage

Examples of elephant in a Sentence

  1. by any standard, the new shopping mall will be an elephant and one that is certain to alter the retail landscape

Recent Examples of elephant from the Web

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.

Illustration of elephant

Origin and Etymology of elephant

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

Other Mammals Terms


Financial Definition of ELEPHANT

elephant

What It Is

Elephants are large institutions that make big trades.

How It Works

CalPERS (the California Public Employees' Retirement System) is the nation's largest pension fund. More than 1.6 million people there are employees of public institutions such as schools and local governments. To ensure that the fund has enough money to make pension payments when employees retire, it invests that money in stocks, bonds, venture capital, real estate and a variety of other assets. In 2012, CalPERS had about $234 billion invested and another $3 billion in cash.

Accordingly, it can make some very large trades and has a lot of influence in the market. CalPERS can also be a source of capital for growing companies: It invested $34.2 billion in private equity in 2012.

Why It Matters

When elephants make trades, they are often large trades that can spike (or tank) the price of a stock or other security quickly. Elephants aren't just big influencers of the markets; they're big "gets" for brokerage firms, advisory firms, or any other financial institution that retains them as customers. After all, fees are often a percentage of trade size or asset size, and thus it's usually a big deal to "bag an elephant."


ELEPHANT Defined for English Language Learners

elephant

play
noun

Definition of elephant for English Language Learners

  • : a very large gray animal that has a long, flexible nose and two long tusks


ELEPHANT Defined for Kids

elephant

play
noun el·e·phant \ˈe-lə-fənt\

Definition of elephant for Students

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



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