Definition of elephant in English:



  • 1A very large plant-eating mammal with a prehensile trunk, long curved ivory tusks, and large ears, native to Africa and southern Asia. It is the largest living land animal.

    See also African elephant
    and See also Indian elephant
    • ‘Living with elephants and giraffes, and seeing lions hunt and kill, was fantastic.’
    • ‘The good news is that mice can scare elephants, and that happens from time to time.’
    • ‘The narrative starts with the violent death of the young elephant's mother.’
    • ‘On watching the footage, you start to believe that elephants may indeed be as intelligent as the great apes.’
    • ‘His notoriety first spread as the poacher of wild elephants for their precious tusks.’
    • ‘Animals such as elephants also use infrasound to communicate over long distances or as weapons to repel foes.’
    • ‘She loved the elephants and spent a good ten minutes pointing and making elephant noises.’
    • ‘What about tigers, elephants and ducks listening to a chorus of frogs singing happily?’
    • ‘Herds of elephants stroll past as lions hide in bushes eyeing up a feast of zebras.’
    • ‘Towards the end of the Miocene, modern cats and the first elephants arrived on the scene.’
    • ‘The sale of new ivory was banned in 1989 to curb the slaughter of elephants in Africa.’
    • ‘They will visit Nairobi Nursery, where the smallest orphaned elephants and rhinos are kept.’
    • ‘The zoo is really cool and we saw all the favourites the best of which were lemurs, elephants and the zebras of course.’
    • ‘If we announced that we were in the market for fresh ivory, of course that would encourage the poaching of elephants.’
    • ‘There were grazing giraffes, ostriches and above all, these wonderful elephants.’
    • ‘He referred to past incidents involving elephants that have created bad publicity.’
    • ‘Last July, the Berkeley Museum of Art at the University of California hosted an exhibit of elephant art.’
    • ‘You used to get lions and tigers and seals with ball skills and elephants giving slow rides to juggling monkeys.’
    • ‘We forbid the sale of goods made from endangered species such as elephants and rhino.’
    • ‘Tigers, elephants and a few others animals still roam there and along the borders.’
  • 2A size of paper, typically 28 × 23 inches (approximately 711 × 584 mm).

    • ‘Further, if we recall the great size of a typical elephant, the figure of Coryate is out of scale, much too large.’


  • the elephant in the room

    • A major problem or controversial issue which is obviously present but is avoided as a subject for discussion.

      ‘they've steadfastly ignored the elephant in the room: the ever-growing debt burden on graduates’
      • ‘I'm sorry, that is a big - that is the elephant in the room.’
      • ‘They do an admirable job of laying out the data, and the financial issues facing societies with ageing populations, with one major exception: they ignore the elephant in the room.’
      • ‘Equally unhealthy is a refusal to admit there is another view or to admit the presence of the elephant in the room.’
      • ‘It's the elephant in the room that everybody avoids talking about, isn't it?’
      • ‘It's an OK article, but Rodriguez ignores the elephant in the room when discussing Kasparov's political fortunes in Russia: he's Jewish.’
      • ‘But the elephant in the room, as the policy grinds forward, is US corporate involvement in Colombia.’
      • ‘Here in Britain the issue of illegal immigration used to be like the elephant in the room that everyone pretended not to notice.’
      • ‘I also think the Small decisions are interesting because they completely avoid the elephant in the room: the Second Amendment.’
      • ‘But the Iraq issue was the elephant in the room, the issue that the two leaders could not ignore.’
      • ‘It's time for both sides to acknowledge the elephant in the room: we are exporting America's quality of life.’


Middle English: from Old French elefant, via Latin from Greek elephas, elephant- ‘ivory, elephant’.