elephant

noun

el·​e·​phant ˈe-lə-fənt How to pronounce elephant (audio)
plural elephants also elephant
often attributive
1
a
: a thickset, usually extremely large, nearly hairless, herbivorous mammal (family Elephantidae, the elephant family) that has a snout elongated into a muscular trunk and two incisors in the upper jaw developed especially in the male into long ivory tusks:
(1)
: a tall, large-eared mammal (Loxodonta africana) of tropical Africa that is sometimes considered to comprise two separate species (L. africana of sub-Saharan savannas and L. cyclotis of central and western rain forests)

called also African elephant

(2)
: a relatively small-eared mammal (Elephas maximus) of forests of southeastern Asia

called also Asian elephant, Indian elephant

b
: any of various extinct relatives of the elephant see mammoth, mastodon
2
: one that is uncommonly large or hard to manage see also elephant in the room

Illustration of elephant

Illustration of elephant
  • 1 African
  • 2 Asian

Example Sentences

by any standard, the new shopping mall will be an elephant and one that is certain to alter the retail landscape
Recent Examples on the Web In addition, the park service notes that northern elephant seals start convening at their rookery sites in late fall. Los Angeles Times, 6 Oct. 2022 Notothens make up about 95% of the biomass of fish in Antarctic waters, and are a major food source for some species of penguins, sea lions and elephant seals, the scientists said. Melina Walling, The Arizona Republic, 11 June 2022 Sharing a name with an extinct mammal resembling an elephant, Mastodon has emerged as a frontrunner among those curious about life beyond the blue bird. Barbara Ortutay, Fortune, 12 Nov. 2022 Sharing a name with an extinct mammal resembling an elephant, Mastodon has emerged as a frontrunner among those curious about life beyond the blue bird. Barbara Ortutay, Chicago Tribune, 12 Nov. 2022 Twitter staff shift focus from midterms to brand fakes Named after an extinct mammal resembling an elephant, Mastodon has emerged as a frontrunner among those curious about life beyond the blue bird. Barbara Ortutay, BostonGlobe.com, 12 Nov. 2022 The piano—in Mr. Faulkner’s estimation, the ivory from one adult elephant could furnish 100 keyboards—was the product of the unspoken slavery-ivory nexus. Maxwell Carter, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 Similarly, the decision to feature a wide range of Disney characters — from Dumbo the flying elephant to the hitchhiking ghosts — was meant to evoke the idea that EVs are for all different kinds of people. Sammy Roth Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2021 Juan Carlos fell from popularity because of financial scandals and an elephant-hunting trip to Africa. Time, 19 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French olifant, elefant, from L. elephantus, from Greek elephant-, elephas

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of elephant was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near elephant

Cite this Entry

“Elephant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elephant. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

elephant

noun

el·​e·​phant ˈel-ə-fənt How to pronounce elephant (audio)
: any of a family of huge thickset nearly hairless mammals that have the snout lengthened into a trunk and two incisors in the upper jaw developed into long outward-curving pointed ivory tusks and that include two living forms:
a
: one with large ears that occurs in tropical Africa
b
: one with relatively small ears that occurs in forests of southeastern Asia

More from Merriam-Webster on elephant

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