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From Middle English ynkhorn, inkehorn (small portable vessel, originally made of horn, used to hold ink), equivalent to ink +‎ horn. Displaced Old English blæchorn, which had the same literal meaning but with the native term for "ink."


  • IPA(key): /ˈɪŋkˌhɔː(ɹ)n/


inkhorn (plural inkhorns)

  1. (archaic) A small portable container, often made of horn, used to carry ink.
  2. (used attributively, derogatory, of vocabulary) Pedantic, obscurely scholarly.
    • 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene i], page 106, column 2:
      And ere that we will ſuffer ſuch a Prince,
      So kinde a Father of the Common-weale,
      To be diſgraced by an Inke-horne Mate,
      Wee and our Wiues and Children all will fight
      And haue our bodyes ſlaughtred by thy foes.
    • 2018, Jan M. Ziolkowski, The Juggler of Notre Dame and the Medievalizing of Modernity, volume 4, →ISBN, page 144:
      The tale retained its bookish and even inkhorn appeal, since established short-story forms continued to be read, and new ones written.

Derived terms[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of ynkhorn