Definition of gnu in US English:



  • A large dark antelope with a long head, a beard and mane, and a sloping back.

    Genus Connochaetes, family Bovidae: two species, in particular the abundant brindled gnu or blue wildebeest (C. taurinus)

    Also called wildebeest
    • ‘White-tailed gnus today live fenced into farm pastures and trapped in mostly small provincial game reserves.’
    • ‘With his travelling companions he stood on a hill looking down on the savannah stretching to the far horizon, gigantic herds of gazelle, antelope, gnu, zebra, and warthog grazing and moving forwards like slow rivers.’
    • ‘In eastern Africa, they mostly hunt Thomson's gazelles, but they will also attack calves, warthogs, zebras, impalas, and the young of large antelopes such as the gnu.’
    • ‘Every February, give or take a couple of weeks, more than a million wildebeest, or gnus, gather in the south-eastern quadrant of their quasi-circular migration route.’
    • ‘These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or an aardvark are rarely exalted).’


Late 18th century: from Khoikhoi and San, perhaps imitative of the sound made by the animal when alarmed.