English edit

Unicorn with a maiden
A unicorn on the arms of Saint-Lô, France

Etymology edit

From Middle English unicorne, unikorn, from Anglo-Norman unicorne, Old French unicorne, and their source, Latin ūnicornis, from ūnus (one) +‎ cornū (horn). Other senses from either rarity (e.g., possessing multiple skills) or by physical resemblance to having a horn (e.g., howitzer). The finance sense was coined by American investor Aileen Lee and first used in a 2013 article.[1]

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

unicorn (plural unicorns)

  1. A mythical beast resembling a horse or deer with a single, straight, spiraled horn projecting from its forehead.
    Hyponyms: pegacorn, unipeg, unisus
    Meronym: alicorn
    Holonym: blessing
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 106:
      The unicorn who may be touched and tamed only by a chaste virgin is a lunar symbol of the ancient religion of Europe.
  2. (historical) In various Bible translations, used to render the Latin unicornis or rhinoceros (representing Hebrew רְאֵם): a reem or wild ox.
  3. Any large beetle having a horn-like prominence on the head or prothorax, especially the Hercules beetle, Dynastes tityus.
  4. A caterpillar, Schizura unicornis, with a large thorn-like spine on the back near its head.
  5. The kamichi, or unicorn bird.
  6. (military) A howitzer.
    • 1898, Kate Douglas Wiggin, chapter 8, in Penelope’s Progress [], Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y.: Houghton, Mifflin and Company [], →OCLC:
      The Sixth Inniskilling Dragoons and the First Battalion Royal Scots will be in attendance, and there will be unicorns, carricks, pursuivants, heralds, mace-bearers, ushers, and pages, together with the Purse-bearer, and the Lyon King-of-Arms, and the national anthem, and the royal salute
  7. Someone or something that is rare and hard to find.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:rarity
    • 2022 July 15, Emily Cochrane, “Manchin Dangles Hopes of a Future Compromise. Democrats Revolt.”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      On Capitol Hill, Mr. Manchin is something of a unicorn — the only national Democrat from his ruby-red state — and acts and votes accordingly.
    1. (sexual slang) A single, usually bisexual woman who participates in swinging or polyamory.
    2. (business) A person with multidisciplinary expertise, especially a laundry list of three or more skills in a young field such as UX design or data science (e.g., domain knowledge, statistics, and software engineering).
      Synonym: purple squirrel
      • 2011 November 1, Braden Kowitz, “Hiring a designer: hunting the unicorn”, in Google Ventures[2]:
        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[3]:
        He believes that good data scientists, “otherwise known as unicorn data scientists,” have three types of expertise.
    3. (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.
      Coordinate term: decacorn
      • 2016 October 3, Tad Friend, “Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny”, in The New Yorker[4]:
        As the price of Web hosting plummeted and PCs and cell phones proliferated, college and grad-school dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page and Sergey Brin could suddenly conjure unicorns on their laptops.
      • 2017, Pongsak Hoontrakul, Economic Transformation and Business Opportunities in Asia, Springer, →ISBN, page 273:
        In May 2016, out of 163 global unicorns, China had 31, with a total valuation of $154 billion or about 26 percent of global unicorn valuation.
  8. (attributive) Being many (especially pastel) colours; multicoloured.
    unicorn smoothies
  9. (historical) A 15th-century Scottish gold coin worth 18 shillings, bearing the image of a unicorn.

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Verb edit

unicorn (third-person singular simple present unicorns, present participle unicorning, simple past and past participle unicorned)

  1. (sexual slang) To participate in a sexual threesome as a bisexual addition to an established heterosexual couple.
    • 2017 January 13, E.J. Dickson, “This is why you haven't had a threesome yet”, in New York Post:
      Katja*, 27, has unicorned on two separate occasions.
    • 2017 September 16, Anna Fitzpatrick, “'The Ethical Slut': Inside America's Growing Acceptance of Polyamory”, in Rolling Stone:
      “In Annie’s unicorning, she’s really able to try out other people’s relationships and see how they function from within,” Gillespie tells me.
    • 2018 August 14, Allison Tierney, How to Be a Great Third in a Threesome:
      “Everyone wants the party, but nobody likes to plan,” explains Vixen Vu, a cam model who has been unicorning since she became sexually active.
    • 2019 September 10, “New Savage Lovecast: Dental Dams Spoiler Alert! (Nobody Uses Them.)”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Also, Dan speaks with a bisexual man, whose first attempt at unicorning (yes, we verbed the word "unicorn,") went poorly, mainly due to his straight couple maybe getting a little too drunky?
  2. (finance) To exceed a valuation of one billion U.S. dollars, while solely backed by venture capitalists.
    • 2014 November 3, Itay Hod, “The Airbnb of Home-Cooked Meals”, in Daily Beast:
      Since Waze, Soluto and Onavo, both Israeli startups, have had great exits in consumer tech, and Wix “unicorned” through its IPO.
    • 2015 April 30, John Koetsier, “29 martech unicorns: There are now almost 30 $1B+ marketing technology vendors”, in Venture Beat:
      For eager investors looking to score in a future IPO, the eight still-private martech unicorns might be tempting. That list includes Domo, Slack, Sprinklr, Shopify, and EventBrite, all of which have “unicorned,” or surpassed the billion-dollar valuation mark, in the past year or two.
    • 2018 April 1, Adrian Weckler, “Admit it: Irish tech is on the up”, in The Independent:
      For instance, at the same time as Intercom was announcing its unicorning moment, a young Dublin tech company called Let's Get Checked (letsgetchecked.com) raised €10m in a funding round.

Adjective edit

unicorn (not comparable)

  1. Having one horn.

Derived terms edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Aileen Lee (2013 November 2) “Welcome to the Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion-Dollar Startups”, in TechCrunch:We found 39 companies belong to what we call the “Unicorn Club” (by our definition, U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors).

Further reading edit

Catalan edit

Noun edit

unicorn m (plural unicorns)

  1. unicorn
    Synonym: alicorn

Middle English edit

Noun edit


  1. Alternative form of unicorne

Romanian edit

Etymology edit

Borrowed from French unicorne. Equivalent to uni- +‎ corn (horn).

Adjective edit

unicorn m or n (feminine singular unicornă, masculine plural unicorni, feminine and neuter plural unicorne)

  1. one-horned

Declension edit