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 Like Manchester of Intrepid Travel, Shell is worried about the fate of pachyderms in Asia and supports the creation of more sanctuaries for these intelligent creatures. Ephrat Livni, Quartzy, "Celebrate World Elephant Day by not riding an elephant," 10 Aug. 2019 If memory serves, the pachyderm’s delivery was juuuuust a bit low. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "Dog days are a good thing for A’s Triple-A team and its four-legged bat boy," 2 Aug. 2019 The smooth pachyderm criminal managed to sneak out of his exhibit at the Florida zoo through a door that was accidentally left open. Kelli Bender,, "Michael Jackson's Former Neverland Ranch Elephant Escapes New Home at Florida Zoo," 18 June 2018 Wilstem offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bathe one of three elephants, love on them and learn more about the peaceful pachyderms. Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star, "Ultimate Indiana bucket list: 50+ things to do in Indianapolis and around the state," 11 July 2018 This was no ordinary delivery: this package contained a pachyderm. Ryan P. Smith, Smithsonian, "Meet Spike, the Affable Asian Bull Elephant Trucked Up From Florida to Join the National Zoo," 23 Mar. 2018 The first teaser trailer for Dumbo, Disney's live-action take of everyone's favorite floppy-eared pachyderm, was released Wednesday morning — and this might be the cutest thing the House of Mouse has released in recent memory. D. Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Disney Debuts "Dumbo" Live-Action Trailer," 13 June 2018 But save some camera battery for the Elephant Terrace, too, as its hundreds of stone pachyderms once welcomed the Khmer imperial army back from battle. Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Days in Siem Reap," 16 Apr. 2018 Aramis Babcock, 19, is one of the students from UTSA’s Honors College who conceived, researched and designed what is essentially a toy to entertain the zoo’s three pachyderms, Lucky, Karen and Nicole. Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News, "Elephants at Zoo receive enrichment project from UTSA Honors College students," 10 Apr. 2018

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

Listen to Our Podcast about pachyderm

Statistics for pachyderm

Time Traveler for pachyderm

The first known use of pachyderm was in 1828

See more words from the same year

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

More from Merriam-Webster on pachyderm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pachyderm

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).


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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