uni·corn | \ ˈyü-nə-ˌkȯrn \
plural unicorns

Definition of unicorn 

1a : a mythical, usually white animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse with long flowing mane and tail and a single often spiraled horn in the middle of the forehead

b : an animal mentioned in the Bible that is usually considered an aurochs, a one-horned rhinoceros, or an antelope

2 : something unusual, rare, or unique There's the elusive unicorn: headphones that do everything well and work in any situation. —Damon Darlin In Washington, D.C., truth is now a veritable unicorn. —Marilyn M. Singleton … he's like baseball's version of a unicorn—a true two-way player. —Tony Paul

3 business : a start-up that is valued at one billion dollars or more … a tech unicorn in Michigan is even more of a rarity, far from Silicon Valley's investor echo chamber. —Scott Martin The blockbuster initial public offering is expected to kick off a revitalized market this year, encouraging IPO debuts by other unicorns, the privately held start-ups whose hefty venture capital funds have allowed them to avoid Wall Street and the legal requirements of a public offering. —Jon Swartz

Illustration of unicorn

Illustration of unicorn

Examples of unicorn in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The other reason is that the chance of a Kansas City NBA team not just existing but being coached by an actual unicorn is roughly the same as the Royals making the playoffs in the next three years. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "Mellinger Minutes: Danny Duffy good again, Royals and 100 losses, and, oh yes, the Chiefs," 12 June 2018 Is this a successful model for other unicorns on the 2018 CNBC Disruptor 50 list announced Tuesday, like Uber and Airbnb or smaller companies? Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Banks give richly to three Senate Democrats who backed deregulation," 23 May 2018 The saola, also called the Asian unicorn, is a forest-dwelling antelope found along Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong River. National Geographic, "Is This Clothing, Food, or an Endangered Species? Take Our Quiz.," 18 May 2018 Headlines Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week WIRED’s own Jessi Hempel took a deep dive into your fave floundering unicorn, Uber, and the man trying to fix it all from the inside: CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "This Week in the Future of Cars: Taming the Jungle," 20 Apr. 2018 The flash sheets, taped to the front desk, featured designs by the staff at Armageddon: skulls, black cats, flaming hearts with swords piercing them, spiders, roses, jellyfish, an upside-down bat and a unicorn smoking a cigar. Zoe Greenberg, New York Times, "Friday the 13th, a ‘Tattoo Holiday’," 13 July 2018 Once officials discovered the unicorn shot projectiles and informed the seller, it was voluntarily removed from the shop. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "North Carolina fire department warns fireworks inside children's toys are being sold in town," 3 July 2018 But the ground in baseball has shifted so quickly here that what made Brantley a moderate outlier in his 2010 rookie season makes him a unicorn in 2018. Si.com Staff, SI.com, "Nine Innings: Solving the Yankees' Sonny Gray Problem, AL East Deciding Factors and Our Favorite Statcast Quirks," 2 July 2018 The developer is dismantling an iconic San Diego landmark in the name of landing the elusive technology unicorn that may not ever appear. Jennifer Van Grove, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Will a Horton Plaza office campus change the character of downtown?," 15 June 2018

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for unicorn

Middle English unicorne, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin unicornis, from Latin, having one horn, from uni- + cornu horn — more at horn

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Statistics for unicorn

Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for unicorn

The first known use of unicorn was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for unicorn



English Language Learners Definition of unicorn

: an imaginary animal that looks like a horse and has a straight horn growing from the middle of its forehead


uni·corn | \ ˈyü-nə-ˌkȯrn \

Kids Definition of unicorn

: an imaginary animal that looks like a horse with one horn in the middle of the forehead


uni·corn | \ ˈyü-nə-ˌkȯ(ə)rn \

Medical Definition of unicorn 

: having a single horn or hornlike process a unicorn uterus

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


characteristic trappings or dress

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