elephant


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to elephant: Elephant man

(the) elephant in the room

An obvious truth or fact, especially one regarded as embarrassing or undesirable, that is being intentionally ignored or left unaddressed. We all sat sipping our tea quietly; no one wanting to bring up the elephant in the room about Joel's expulsion from college.
See also: elephant, room

an elephant never forgets

One remembers everything. A play on the idea that elephants have great memories. I don't think we can pick up where we were before you betrayed me because an elephant never forgets! I would be hesitant to cross him—he's a dangerous man, and an elephant never forgets.
See also: elephant, forget, never

elephant ear

1. Any of several varieties of plants that have large, heart-shaped leaves. A: "Look at those enormous leaves!" B: "Oh wow! I guess that's an elephant ear."
2. A puff pastry that is shaped like a palm leaf. Also known as a "palmier." I know I should be eating better, but I couldn't resist getting an elephant ear at the bakery for breakfast.
See also: ear, elephant

elephant ears

Metal discs on the outside of a missile or rocket. The elephant ears on the rocket need to be repaired.
See also: ear, elephant

seeing pink elephants

 and seeing pink spiders; Seeing snakes
intoxicated; recovering from a drinking bout; having the delirium tremens. When I got to the point of seeing pink elephants, I knew that something had to be done. The old one who's shakinghe's probably seeing snakes.
See also: elephant, pink, seeing

white elephant

something that is large and unwieldy and is either a nuisance or expensive to keep up. Bob's father-in-law has given him an old Rolls Royce, but it's a real white elephant. He has no place to park it and can't afford the gas for it. Those antique vases Aunt Mary gave me are white elephants. They're ugly and I have no place to put them.
See also: elephant, white

have a memory like an elephant

to be very good at remembering things
Usage notes: Elephants are believed to have good memories.
'I remember where I first saw her - it was at Tim Fisher's party about ten years ago.' 'Yes, you're right - you've got a memory like an elephant!'
See also: elephant, have, like, memory

a white elephant

something that has cost a lot of money but has no useful purpose The town's new leisure centre, recently completed at a cost of ten million pounds, seems likely to prove a white elephant.
See also: elephant, white

see the elephant

Experience more than one wants to, learn a hard lesson; also, see combat, especially for the first time. For example, After the expedition lost two climbers in an avalanche, they had seen the elephant and turned back , or On his first tour of duty he saw the elephant. This slangy expression, first recorded in 1835, alludes to having seen all the sights one can see, including that rare beast, and returning home unimpressed or disappointed.
See also: elephant, see

white elephant

An unwanted or useless item, as in The cottage at the lake had become a real white elephant-too run down to sell, yet costly to keep up , or Grandma's ornate silver is a white elephant; no one wants it but it's too valuable to discard . This expression comes from a legendary former Siamese custom whereby an albino elephant, considered sacred, could only be owned by the king. The king would bestow such an animal on a subject with whom he was displeased and wait until the high cost of feeding the animal, which could not be slaughtered, ruined the owner. The story was told in England in the 1600s, and in the 1800s the term began to be used figuratively.
See also: elephant, white

pink elephants

and pink spiders
1. n. the delirium tremens. He was shaking something awful from the pink spiders.
2. n. hallucinatory creatures seen during the delirium tremens. (see also seeing pink elephants.) He said pink elephants were trying to kill him. He’s really drunk.
See also: elephant, pink

seeing pink elephants

and seeing pink spiders and seeing snakes
tv. alcohol intoxicated; recovering from a drinking bout; having the delirium tremens. When I got to the point of seeing pink elephants, I knew that something had to be done. He’s screaming something about seeing pink spiders, and he wants a drink.
See also: elephant, pink, seeing

white elephant

n. a useless or unwanted object. (From the notion that an extremely valuable gift that requires great expense for its care and protection is an unwanted gift.) Take all those white elephants to the flea market.
See also: elephant, white

elephant in the room

A matter or problem that is obvious or of great importance but that is not discussed openly.
See also: elephant, room

white elephant

An expensive but useless possession. Albino elephants are extremely rare, and any born in Siam became the property of the king. These favored specimens were not allowed to be worked or to be killed without the royal permission. As the story goes, the king often perversely gave a white elephant to a courtier who had fallen out of favor, just so the nobleman would spend a small fortune maintaining the useless gift for the rest of its life. Rummage sales in which people donate items for which they (and possibly no one else) have no use are often called “white elephant sales.”
See also: elephant, white
References in classic literature ?
Tantor, the elephant, never forgets and never forgives.
He shall have the finest thrashing ever elephant received.
Tha, the First of the Elephants, was busy making new jungles and leading the rivers in their beds.
The elephant halted, lifted his trunk, and resumed his run toward the wood with all his speed; he shook his huge head, and the blood began to gush from his wounds.
Momentarily baffled here, the huge elephant wheeled and bore down upon the hapless priests who had now scattered, terror-stricken, in every direction.
And now Tarzan saw that only a miracle could save Busuli, and with the same unconcern with which he had once hunted this very man he hurled himself into the path of the elephant to save the black warrior's life.
The elephant raised his trunk, and, trumpeting loudly, lumbered off through the wood, crushing down small trees and trampling bushes in his mad flight.
I may remark, that in Abyssinia the elephant, according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with its proboscis the branches, deeply scores with its tusks the trunk of the tree, up and down and all round, till it is sufficiently weakened to be broken down.
Bara, the deer, is less fearful than you--you, Tantor, the elephant, greatest of the jungle folk with the strength of as many Numas as I have toes upon my feet and fingers upon my hands.
The Hebrew aide-de-camp in the service of the officer at the table bid against the Hebrew gentleman employed by the elephant purchasers, and a brisk battle ensued over this little piano, the combatants being greatly encouraged by Mr.
He ran his finger over them, and when he came to Siam he contemplated with great attention the red field and the white elephant.
He said there was loads of them there, anyway; and he said there was A-rabs there, too, and elephants and things.
In one room, which looked like a lady's sitting-room, the hangings were all embroidered velvet, and in a cabinet were about a hundred little elephants made of ivory.
From mice and rats to camels and elephants, and even, on occasion, to a rhinoceros or a pair of hippopotamuses, he could supply any animal on demand.
I shall say-- "Oh, I like it well enough--"' (here came the favourite little toss of the head), '"only it was so dusty and hot, and the elephants did tease so