From Middle High German helfenbein, from Old High German helfantbein (“ivory”), from helfant (“elephant; ivory”) + bein (“bone”), equivalent to modern German Elefant + Bein. The loss of initial h- in early modern German was due to the influence of Latin elephās. Since the 19th century the word has been remotivated, somewhat meaningfully (with regard to the pure white colour of ivory), as Elfe (“elf”) + Bein (“bone”).
- ivory (material)
- Elfenbein in Duden online