oka·​pi ō-ˈkä-pē How to pronounce okapi (audio)
: an African ungulate mammal (Okapia johnstoni) that is closely related to the giraffe but has a relatively short neck, a coat typically of solid reddish chestnut on the trunk, yellowish white on the cheeks, and purplish-black and cream rings on the upper parts of the legs

Illustration of okapi

Illustration of okapi

Examples of okapi in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The okapi’s scientific name, okapia johnstoni, is named after Johnston, though indigenous people had already known of the okapi’s existence long before. Katie Liu, Discover Magazine, 11 Apr. 2024 The calf is from a species called okapi, the only living relative of the giraffe, the zoo said in a news release. Julia Daye, Sacramento Bee, 9 Apr. 2024 The habitat will include a pair of okapi, a striped mammal that looks like a zebra and is the only living relative of the giraffe. Harriet Ramos, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 22 June 2023 Along with supporting conservation breeding programs by raising okapi, the Chester Zoo also supports wild okapi. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, 24 Feb. 2022 The researchers say that giraffes and okapi split around 11.5 million year ago, after which giraffes underwent a tremendous growth spurt. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 17 May 2016 The okapi and the giraffe diverged from a common ancestor only 11-to-12 million years ago. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 17 May 2016 Male okapi, though, were less closely related to each other than females. Elizabeth Preston, Discover Magazine, 23 Jan. 2015 Some of those ancestors wandered toward the rain forest and present-day Congo and eventually gave rise to the okapi. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'okapi.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Mvuba (language spoken west of Lake Edward, Democratic Republic of the Congo)

First Known Use

1900, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of okapi was in 1900

Dictionary Entries Near okapi

Cite this Entry

“Okapi.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/okapi. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


oka·​pi ō-ˈkäp-ē How to pronounce okapi (audio)
: an African mammal closely related to the giraffe but lacking the long neck

More from Merriam-Webster on okapi

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