One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
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.
Family Elephantidae, order Proboscidea: two species. See African elephant, Indian elephant
- ‘There were grazing giraffes, ostriches and above all, these wonderful elephants.’
- ‘He referred to past incidents involving elephants that have created bad publicity.’
- ‘Towards the end of the Miocene, modern cats and the first elephants arrived on the scene.’
- ‘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?’
- ‘We forbid the sale of goods made from endangered species such as elephants and rhino.’
- ‘The zoo is really cool and we saw all the favourites the best of which were lemurs, elephants and the zebras of course.’
- ‘Living with elephants and giraffes, and seeing lions hunt and kill, was fantastic.’
- ‘Last July, the Berkeley Museum of Art at the University of California hosted an exhibit of elephant art.’
- ‘If we announced that we were in the market for fresh ivory, of course that would encourage the poaching of elephants.’
- ‘Herds of elephants stroll past as lions hide in bushes eyeing up a feast of zebras.’
- ‘The narrative starts with the violent death of the young elephant's mother.’
- ‘His notoriety first spread as the poacher of wild elephants for their precious tusks.’
- ‘They will visit Nairobi Nursery, where the smallest orphaned elephants and rhinos are kept.’
- ‘Tigers, elephants and a few others animals still roam there and along the borders.’
- ‘The good news is that mice can scare elephants, and that happens from time to time.’
- ‘The sale of new ivory was banned in 1989 to curb the slaughter of elephants in Africa.’
- ‘On watching the footage, you start to believe that elephants may indeed be as intelligent as the great apes.’
- ‘You used to get lions and tigers and seals with ball skills and elephants giving slow rides to juggling monkeys.’
- ‘Animals such as elephants also use infrasound to communicate over long distances or as weapons to repel foes.’
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’
- ‘Equally unhealthy is a refusal to admit there is another view or to admit the presence of 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.’
- ‘It's time for both sides to acknowledge the elephant in the room: we are exporting America's quality of life.’
- ‘I'm sorry, that is a big - that is the elephant in the room.’
- ‘It's an OK article, but Rodriguez ignores the elephant in the room when discussing Kasparov's political fortunes in Russia: he's Jewish.’
- ‘Here in Britain the issue of illegal immigration used to be like the elephant in the room that everyone pretended not to notice.’
- ‘But the Iraq issue was the elephant in the room, the issue that the two leaders could not ignore.’
- ‘I also think the Small decisions are interesting because they completely avoid the elephant in the room: the Second Amendment.’
- ‘It's the elephant in the room that everybody avoids talking about, isn't it?’
- ‘But the elephant in the room, as the policy grinds forward, is US corporate involvement in Colombia.’
Middle English: from Old French elefant, via Latin from Greek elephas, elephant- ‘ivory, elephant’.
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