From Middle English elefant, elefaunt, from Old French elefant, elefan, olifant, re-latinized in Middle French as elephant, from Latin elephantus, from Ancient Greek ἐλέφᾱς (eléphās) (gen. ἐλέφαντος (eléphantos)). Believed to be derived from an Afro-Asiatic form such as Proto-Berber *eḷu (“elephant”) (compare Tamahaq (Tahaggart) êlu, (Ghat) alu) or Egyptian 𓍋𓃀𓅱𓌟 (ȝbw) (ābu) ‘elephant; ivory’. More at ivory. Replaced Middle English olifant, which replaced Old English elpend (“elephant”).
elephant (plural elephants)
- A mammal of the order Proboscidea, having a trunk, and two large ivory tusks jutting from the upper jaw.
- (figuratively) Anything huge and ponderous.
- (paper, printing) A printing-paper size measuring 30 inches×22 inches.
- (Britain, childish) used when counting to add length, so that each count takes about one second.
- Let's play hide and seek. I'll count. One elephant, two elephant, three elephant...
- (obsolete) ivory
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Dryden to this entry?)
- (animal): Elephas maximus, Loxodonta africana
- (counting term): see Appendix:Words used as placeholders to count seconds