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African elephant

From Middle English elefant, elefaunt, from Old French elefant, elefan, olifant, re-latinized in Middle French as elephant, from Latin elephantus, from Ancient Greek ἐλέφᾱς (eléphās) (gen. ἐλέφαντος (eléphantos)). Believed to be derived from an Afroasiatic form such as Proto-Berber *eḷu (elephant) (compare Tamahaq êlu, Tamasheq alu) or Egyptian ꜣbw (elephant; ivory). More at ivory. Replaced Middle English olifant (from the aforementioned Old French form, from Vulgar Latin *olifantus), which replaced Old English elpend (elephant).



elephant (countable and uncountable, plural elephants)

  1. A mammal of the order Proboscidea, having a trunk, and two large ivory tusks jutting from the upper jaw.
  2. (in particular) Any member of the subfamily Elephantinae not also of the genera Mammuthus and Primelephas.
  3. (figuratively) Anything huge and ponderous.
  4. (paper, printing) Synonym of elephant paper
  5. (British, childish) used when counting to add length, so that each count takes about one second
    Let's play hide and seek. I'll count. One elephant, two elephant, three elephant...
  6. (uncountable, obsolete) Ivory.
    • 1697, Virgil, “(please specify the book number)”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      He sent rich gifts of elephant and gold.
  7. (xiangqi) A xiangqi piece that is moved two points diagonally, may not jump over intervening pieces and may not cross the river.



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  • Hawaiian: ʻelepani
  • Maori: arewhana
  • Tokelauan: elefane
  • Tongan: ʻelefanite
  • Welsh: eliffant


See also[edit]

Xiangqi pieces in English (see also: xiangqi) (layout · text)
general advisor elephant horse chariot cannon soldier

Further reading[edit]


Middle French[edit]


elephant m (plural elephans)

  1. elephant (animal)