The elephant is the largest living land animal, and is taken as a type of something of great size and weight. The Indian elephant was traditionally used as a beast of burden and in the ancient world (as, notably, by Hannibal when he crossed the Alps in 219–18 bc) as a mount in war.
Elephant is also used for a size of paper, typically 28 × 23 inches (approximately 711 × 584 mm).
In the US, the elephant is the emblem of the Republican Party.
The word is recorded from Middle English, and comes via Old French and Latin from Greek elephas, elephant- ‘ivory, elephant’.
Elephant and Castle a public-house sign which has given its name to the main crossroads of Southwark in London; it is popularly said to be a corruption of Infanta de Castile, but in fact is probably adopted from the arms of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, whose trade included the importation of elephants' tusks (in heraldry, the elephant is shown with a crenellated round tower on its back).
elephant in the room an unwelcome fact which is not directly referred to but of which everyone is aware. The term is recorded from the 1980s, as in An Elephant in the Living Room (1984), title of a book presenting alcoholism as an unmentionable family problem. Other variants include moose on the table.
Elephant Man the nickname of Joseph Carey Merrick (1862–90), who as a result of what is now thought to be Proteus syndrome had an enormous head with bone protruding from his forehead and mouth, and folds of spongy flesh covered with skin resembling a cauliflower hanging from his head, chest, and back.
elephants' graveyard a repository for unwanted goods, from the belief (recorded from the early 20th century) that elephants in the wild seek out a particular spot in which to die, where their remains then lie.
Order of the Elephant the highest Danish order of knighthood. It was first founded in the 12th century. The Order was originally associated with an Order dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with a medallion of the Virgin and a smaller medallion with three nails of the Cross, on a chain of alternate elephants and spurs.
see the elephant (in the US) see the world, get experience of life; an elephant is taken here as the type of something remarkable (compare see the lions).
Subjects: Arts and Humanities.