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

In an age of plentiful unicorns, there seems to be only one (Convoy) founded by Amazon vets near the mothership. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook has a growing morale problem," 15 Nov. 2018 Last night, It-girls and models alike showed off their spookiest, most creative Halloween costumes on Instagram, ranging from magical unicorns to undead nurses and beyond. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "The Best Celebrity Halloween Makeup on Instagram," 1 Nov. 2018 Read on for a few available costume ideas—from quirky unicorn to Wonder Woman—that actually look really cute. Tiffany Dodson, SELF, "15 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes You Can Get on Amazon ASAP," 26 Oct. 2018 Sometimes called unicorn or elephant plant, the 6- to 8-inch long devil's claw is the seed head of a native annual, generally found in the southwest, and grown here from seed as an annual (NativeSeeds.org). Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, Indianapolis Star, "The Hoosier Gardener: Wild and crazy annuals for the summer garden," 27 Apr. 2018 Sixty-eight percent of unicorn technology companies — those high-flyers like Airbnb with billion dollar-plus valuations — have no women on their boards. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Airbnb adds Chenault, pledges next hire for all-male board will be a woman," 25 Jan. 2018 There's the 12-foot unicorn, the giant swan and convertible, and even bacon. Danielle Tullo, House Beautiful, "You Can Now Celebrate America's Birthday While Riding A Giant Bald Eagle Float," 2 July 2018 SoftBank manages and also has a big chunk of money invested in the $98 billion Vision Fund, which owns stakes in such unicorns as Uber and WeWork. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "SoftBank Burns Bright for a Tiger," 12 July 2018 But in some cases, utilities drag their feet in the hopes a unicorn will come along. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Waiting for cheaper renewables can cost more in the long run," 22 May 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

19 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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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Comments on unicorn

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


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