Not clear that it comes from Arabic
According to my research, the Greek word ἐλέφας is not related, at least not clearly or directly, with Arabic الفيل . I looked up four or five etymologycal books and all of them said basically what is stated in this website. So, it is probable that it comes from a Semitic word but not necessarily Arabic al-fil.
In the etymology of this word there is as well a hidden commentary that goes: "<!--, Egyptian [[Ab]] ... how is pil/fil related to Ab?-->". The answer is "not to pil/fil" but to "ebur". According to my research, some connected the origin of Latin ebur (ivory) with Greek ἐλέφας but the connection cannot be established satisfactorily . It is ebur, and not ἐλέφας, the word which is related to Egiptian āb/ābu < Coptic ebou/ebu < Hebrew (shen-)habbim (tooth of) elephants < Sanskrit इभ (íbha[s]) (eventually back to an Indo-European root). What it is not clear is the fact that "ebur" and "elephas" share one common origin. So, I am going to hide the reference to Arabic and Persian and state that it probably comes from a Semitic language.--Piolinfax 01:58, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
- Hello, Germany calling! :) First of all, there is a very good small dictionary of German words of Arabic Origin - Nabil Osman: Kleines Lexikon deutscher Wörter arabischer Herkunft, Beck'sche Reihe 1982 (I use the 3rd edition of 1993). Osman is listing even words, which are archaic, rare or technical terms of Islamic studies. But "Elefant" is not mentioned there at all! This is a pretty good proof, that this Arab scholar in Germanistics came to the conclusion, that this word is not coming from Arabic.
- Second, I can report, what the Etymology Duden says about Elefant: Middle High German elefant, Old High German elpfant, elafant and also helfant, folk etymology from helfen (to help). (The elephant was considered as a helpful animal, which got its name from the tooth, which were much longer known, than the animal self) < Latin elephantus < Greece eléphas (Genitive eléphantos), < Egyptian âb(u) < Coptic eb(o)u > > Latin ebur.
- Can it be, that this folk etymology with "help" also applies to English, if this phenomen played a role? -- Arne List 20:04, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
Maybe it's "Aleph".
Elephant in crinoline
Isn't there another victorian era meaning to "elephant": a woman, usually an elderly one, who looks over young lovers outdoors, so the unmarried couple does not engage in some extremely gross activity, like touching each other, God forsake kissing!Last modified on 24 April 2013, at 06:55