elephantiasis

noun
el·​e·​phan·​ti·​a·​sis | \ˌe-lə-fən-ˈtī-ə-səs, -ˌfan-\
plural elephantiases\ˌe-​lə-​fən-​ˈtī-​ə-​ˌsēz, -​ˌfan-​ \

Definition of elephantiasis 

1 : enlargement and thickening of tissues (as from chronic lymphedema) specifically : the enormous enlargement of a limb or the scrotum caused by obstruction of lymphatic vessels by filarial worms (especially Wuchereria bancrofti)

2 : an undesirable usually enormous growth, enlargement, or overdevelopment elephantiasis of the imagination

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Did You Know?

In Latin elephantiasis referred to a kind of leprosy in which the skin takes on the appearance of an elephant's hide. The word is still used in the medical field for various infectious skin diseases in which the affected part becomes grossly enlarged. The first known figurative use of "elephantiasis" is by English author George Meredith in a letter dated December 22, 1866. In that letter, he ribs an acquaintance for his exaggerated description of the size of a mackerel, telling him that he has "become the victim of a kind of mental elephantiasis."

Examples of elephantiasis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The worm that caused Hannah’s elephantiasis was also once widespread. The Economist, "How Sierra Leone is beating tropical diseases," 23 June 2018 The team believes Nyan htoo had a condition called elephantiasis, in which a person (or, in this case, an animal) experiences swelling of body parts to the point of disfiguration. Amy B Wang, Alaska Dispatch News, "This bear’s tongue was ‘monstrously’ enlarged. A team of vets gave him a second chance at life.," 27 Oct. 2017 In most affected countries, elephantiasis is caused by worms spread to humans by mosquito bites. Donald G. Mcneil Jr., New York Times, "Volcanic Minerals, Not Worms, Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda," 10 Apr. 2017 In 2015, the Ugandan health ministry was told that an outbreak of elephantiasis was emerging in Kamwenge, in western Uganda. Donald G. Mcneil Jr., New York Times, "Volcanic Minerals, Not Worms, Caused Disease Outbreak in Uganda," 10 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'elephantiasis.' 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 elephantiasis

1562, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for elephantiasis

New Latin, from Latin, a kind of leprosy, from Greek, from elephant-, elephas

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The first known use of elephantiasis was in 1562

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More Definitions for elephantiasis

elephantiasis

noun
el·​e·​phan·​ti·​a·​sis | \ˌel-ə-fən-ˈtī-ə-səs, -ˌfan- \
plural elephantiases\-​ˌsēz \

Medical Definition of elephantiasis 

: enlargement and thickening of tissues (as from chronic lymphedema) specifically : the enormous enlargement of a limb or the scrotum caused by obstruction of lymphatics by filarial worms of the genus Wuchereria (W. bancrofti) or a related genus (Brugia malayi)

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