pachy·​derm | \ ˈpa-ki-ˌdərm How to pronounce pachyderm (audio) \

Definition of pachyderm

: any of various nonruminant mammals (such as an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus) of a former group (Pachydermata) that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin especially : elephant

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Pachydermos in Greek means literally "having thick skin" (figuratively, it means "dull" or "stupid"). It's from pachys, meaning "thick," and derma, meaning "skin." In the late 1700s the French naturalist Georges Cuvier adapted the Greek term as pachyderme and used it for any one of a whole assemblage of hoofed animals having thickish skin: elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, tapirs, horses, pigs, and more. English speakers learned the word from French in the early 1800s. The adjective pachydermatous means "of or relating to the pachyderms" or "thickened" (referring to skin). Not too surprisingly, it also means "callous" or "insensitive" (somewhat unfairly to elephants, which are actually known to be rather sensitive).

Examples of pachyderm in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Around 20 million years ago there lived a prehistoric pachyderm named Deinotherium with twin, curved tusks curving down from the jaw. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, "Ten Exquisite Creatures That Once Roamed the Earth," 10 Dec. 2020 Dreiser, playing so well the part of the pachyderm, seemed completely undisturbed. John Dos Passos, National Review, "Reminiscences of a Middle-Class Radical," 28 Sep. 2020 Well, naturally, the guy moves through the air and over the elephant—then over another elephant (because where there’s one pachyderm there’s probably another). Rhett Allain, Wired, "The Physics of an Elephant-Powered Slam Dunk," 4 Apr. 2020 That’s probably a misleading way to characterize a herd of pachyderms making their dangerous annual migration across hundreds of miles of parched Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Disneynature doc ‘Elephant’ is gorgeous if much too obvious (tusk, tusk)," 1 Apr. 2020 The images please both nostalgic circus-goers and animal-rights supporters who pushed to eliminate live pachyderms from shows over animal treatment issues. National Geographic, "Is the sun getting stranger?," 11 Dec. 2019 With the power to put down a pachyderm, this rifle roars at the muzzle and bites at the butt-stock. Richard Mann, Field & Stream, "The 30 Best AR-Style Rifles for Hunting and Personal Defense," 17 Sep. 2019 The ultimate watering hole: The world’s largest remaining African elephant population finds sanctuary in these grassy flood plains, numbering some 130,000 pachyderms. National Geographic, "Jewel in the Desert: Saving the Okavango Delta," 8 Apr. 2019 The 50-year-old pachyderm was found collapsed on the ground in her 6.5-acre enclosure on Tuesday afternoon, according to a release from the zoo. Gabrielle Chung,, "Oakland Zoo's Oldest Elephant Collapses and Dies at the Age of 50: 'We'll Miss Her Greatly'," 5 Dec. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of pachyderm

1828, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pachyderm

French pachyderme, from Greek pachydermos thick-skinned, from pachys thick + derma skin; akin to Sanskrit bahu dense, much — more at derm-

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pachyderm

Time Traveler for pachyderm

Time Traveler

The first known use of pachyderm was in 1828

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about pachyderm

Statistics for pachyderm

Last Updated

21 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pachyderm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pachyderm


How to pronounce pachyderm (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pachyderm

: a type of animal that has hooves and thick skin

Comments on pachyderm

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!