One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
2A horn or trumpet made of ivory; (Scottish) ivory used to make a horn (obsolete).
Middle English; earliest use found in Layamon (fl. 1250), poet. From Anglo-Norman olifan, olifant, oliphant, ollifaunt, holifaunt and Old French olifan, olifant, oliphant, etc., ivory, musical horn made of ivory, elephant, apparently representing a post-classical Latin variant of classical Latin elephant-, elephantus (also elephans, elephas) elephant. Compare Middle Dutch olifant (Dutch olifant), Old Occitan olifan elephant, Italian olifante musical horn. Compare also Breton olifant elephant, (in plural) ivory, and Welsh † oliffant elephant, ivory, which may be from Middle English or Old French.
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