Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for October 2, 2020 is:
pachyderm PAK-ih-derm noun
: any of various nonruminant mammals (such as an elephant, a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus) of a former group (Pachydermata) that have hooves or nails resembling hooves and usually thick skin; especially : elephant
“‘Rhino births are significant events at the Zoo so we are thrilled to share news of Niki’s pregnancy and cannot wait to welcome this new addition to our herd,’ said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo curator of pachyderms.” — The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 15 Feb. 2020
“The elephants, though, still needed to reach the river. They hewed close to the old route, the one imprinted on generations of pachyderm brains….” — Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, The New York Times, 16 July 2020
Did you know?
Pachydermos in Greek means literally “having thick skin” (figuratively, it means “dull” or “stupid”). It’s from pachys, meaning “thick,” and derma, meaning “skin.” In the late 1700s, the French naturalist Georges Cuvier adapted the Greek term as pachyderme for any one of a whole assemblage of hoofed animals having thickish skin: elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, tapirs, horses, pigs, and more. English speakers learned the word from French in the early 1800s. The adjective pachydermatous means “of or relating to the pachyderms” or “thickened” (referring to skin). Not too surprisingly, it also means “callous” or “insensitive” (somewhat unfairly especially to elephants, which are actually known to be rather sensitive).