unicorn

noun

uni·​corn ˈyü-nə-ˌkȯrn How to pronounce unicorn (audio)
plural unicorns
1
a
: 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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Still, the concept of the unicorn became a lasting one in Silicon Valley, and companies that could command big valuations attracted the best employees and investors. Gerrit De Vynck, Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2022 Completed in 1971, the Denver Art Museum’s tower is a bit of a unicorn. Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2022 Ware is something of a unicorn for Kentucky as the rare top-40 recruit to stick around for three years without a clear path to a starting role. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, 26 July 2022 Young-Byron is flattered when she is referred to as a unicorn. Emerald Elitou, Essence, 28 Apr. 2022 The annual award had previously been won by Patrick Collison, CEO of Irish tech unicorn Stripe—and those who win generally go on to make waves in the Irish tech sector. WIRED, 8 Oct. 2022 Interestingly, Christie’s has also recruited Devang Thakkar, a former Microsoft and Artsy executive and digital mortgage unicorn Better’s former Chief Product Officer, to lead the venture arm. Jessica Mathews, Fortune, 19 July 2022 His abs were illuminated by a light-up plastic unicorn like an altar. Ferron Salniker, Los Angeles Times, 1 Dec. 2021 Most corporate leaders don’t know how to build a new unicorn from scratch. Dileep Rao, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near unicorn

Cite this Entry

“Unicorn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unicorn. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

unicorn

noun

: an imaginary animal generally represented with the body and head of a horse and a single horn in the middle of the forehead

Medical Definition

unicorn

adjective

: having a single horn or hornlike process
a unicorn uterus

More from Merriam-Webster on unicorn

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