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

Illustration of elephant

Illustration of elephant

elephant: 1 African, 2 Asian

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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 There was also the building’s inconvenient past: a vast M-shaped building once owned by a princess who was known for holding one of Paris’s most sought-after salons and for keeping a pet elephant. New York Times, "A New Home for French Socialists, on Paris’s Periphery," 12 Jan. 2020 The film becomes far more complicated than who survives, elephants or people. Heather Hansman, Outside Online, "'When Lambs Become Lions' Explores a Violent Trade," 11 Jan. 2020 Sporting a double-horned headgear, he is surrounded by animals like tiger, rhinoceros, and elephant. Harish Pullanoor, Quartz India, "How the Indian icon Nataraja danced his way from ancient history to modern physics," 18 Dec. 2019 So that elephant stomping indirectly saved his life. David E. Petzal, Field & Stream, "How to Survive an Elephant Attack," 18 Dec. 2019 His search led him to a small street in south London where, at the end of a mews, lies a two-storey building that a century ago was home to two baby elephants. The Economist, "Setting type How the world’s old printing presses are being brought back to life," 18 Dec. 2019 Some animals, including birds and even elephants, can mimic human voice sounds by using an entirely different anatomy. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian, "Human Ancestors May Have Evolved the Physical Ability to Speak More Than 25 Million Years Ago," 11 Dec. 2019 The Milwaukee Zoo has room for as many as five elephants. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County Zoo's new elephant Belle arrives early Wednesday morning from South Carolina," 20 Nov. 2019 Instead of shooting rocket propellent out the bottom, this one shoots elephants. Wired, "Fly Me to the Moon … With Elephants!," 30 Oct. 2019

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.

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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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Statistics for elephant

Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Elephant.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elephant. Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for elephant



Financial Definition of 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."

Source: Investing Answers


How to pronounce elephant (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of elephant

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


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

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Comments on elephant

What made you want to look up elephant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to assert without proof or before proving

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