From Middle English unicorne, unikorn, from Anglo-Norman unicorne, Old French unicorne, and their source, Latin ūnicornis, from unus (“one”) + cornu (“horn”). Other senses from either rarity (e.g., possessing multiple skills) or by physical resemblance to having a horn (e.g., howitzer).
unicorn (plural unicorns)
- (Discuss(+) this sense) A mythical beast resembling a horse or deer with a single, straight, spiraled horn projecting from its forehead.
- A heraldic representation of such a beast used as a charge or as a supporter; as in the arms of Great Britain and of Scotland.
- (historical) In various Bible translations, used to render the Latin unicornis or rhinoceros (representing Hebrew רְאֵם); a reem or wild ox.
- God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
- Any large beetle having a horn-like prominence on the head or prothorax, especially the Hercules beetle, Dynastes tityus.
- The larva of a unicorn moth.
- The kamichi, or unicorn bird.
- (military) A howitzer.
- (sexual slang) a single, usually bisexual woman who participates in swinging and/or polyamory.
- (finance) A startup company whose valuation has exceeded one billion U.S. dollars, which is solely backed by venture capitalists, and which has yet to have an IPO.
- (business) A person with multidisciplinary expertise (due to rarity and value), especially three or more skills in a young field such as UX design or data science (e.g., domain knowledge, statistics, and software engineering).
2011 November 1, Braden Kowitz, “Hiring a designer: hunting the unicorn”, in Google Ventures:
- But I also think, “They’re looking for a unicorn — a magical designer who can solve all their problems.” It’s too bad unicorns don’t exist. … I have never met a designer who is an expert in all those skill areas. … Even if you find a unicorn designer with all those skills, actually doing all those things at your company is a huge amount of work.
2015 October 3, Gil Press, “These Are The Skills You Need To (Eventually) Become A $240,000+ Unicorn Data Scientist”, in Forbes:
- He believes that good data scientists, “otherwise known as unicorn data scientists,” have three types of expertise.
- alicorn (“unicorn horn”)
- blessing (“group of unicorns”)