elk

elk (ĕlk)
n. pl. elk or elks 1) A large reddish-brown or grayish deer (Cervus canadensis) of western North America, having long, branching antlers in the male. The elk is sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related red deer. Also called wapiti. 2) Chiefly British The moose. 3) A light, pliant leather of horsehide or calfskin, tanned and finished to resemble elk hide.
[Middle English, the European elk or moose (Alces alces), probably alteration of Old English eolh.]
Word History: In British English, elk refers to the species of large deer (scientific name Alces alces) known as moose in North America. In North American English, elk refers to a completely different species of deer, Cervus canadensis, that is closely related to the red deer (Cervus elaphus) of Europe. How did this confusing situation come about? The word elk comes from Old English eolh and originally referred to A. alces. Although the animal called eolh became extinct in Great Britain before AD 1000, the English were still aware of its existence on the continent, and so the word eolh survived into Middle English as elk. By the 17th century, due to hunting and the increase in human population, the red deer had also become scarce in the southern part of England, although some were maintained on wealthy estates to be hunted for sport. The average English person would thus have had only a vague knowledge of the red deer (C. elaphus), while the elk (A. alces) would have simply been a very large deer of distant Scandinavia known only by reputation. When English settlers arrived in North America, however, they were suddenly face-to-face with two large deer species and needed words to distinguish them. Although the elk (A. alces) was abundant, settlers did not identify it with the elk of Europe. Instead, they began calling it a moose, using a word borrowed from an Algonquian language of eastern North America. This left the name elk still available, and the English settlers gave it to a large deer, C. canadensis, that resembles the red deer of Europe. To add to the confusion, C. canadensis—the animal that North Americans call elk—is sometimes considered a subspecies of the red deer (C. elaphus). In North America, therefore, the words elk and red deer are sometimes treated as synonyms, both referring to the species C. elaphus.

Word Histories. 2014.

Synonyms:
, (Cervus alces or Alces molchis)


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ełk — Ełk …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • elk — /elk/, n., pl. elks, (esp. collectively) elk for 1, 2. 1. Also called European elk. the moose, Alces alces. 2. Also called American elk, wapiti. a large North American deer, Cervus canadensis, the male of which has large, spreading antlers. 3. a… …   Universalium

  • elk — ([e^]lk), n. [Icel. elgr; akin to Sw. elg, AS. eolh, OHG. elaho, MHG. elch, cf. L. alces; perh. akin to E. eland.] (Zo[ o]l.) A large deer, of several species. The European elk {Alces alces} (formerly {Alces machlis} or {Cervus alces}) is closely …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • elk — /ɛlk / (say elk) noun (plural elks, elk) 1. the largest existing deer, Alces alces, having a large head with broad, overhanging muzzle, and large palmate antlers in the male, found in moist wooded areas across the Northern Hemisphere. Compare… …   Australian English dictionary

  • elk — [elk] n plural elk [: Old English; Origin: eolh] 1.) BrE a very large brown North American, European, and Asian animal with wide flat horns American Equivalent: moose 2.) AmE a large North American ↑deer …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • elk — [elk] n. pl. elk or elks [ME, irreg. development (with k for ch) < OE eolh, akin to Ger elch, ON elgr < Gmc base * alchis < IE base * el , stag, hart > Welsh elain, doe, Lith élnis, Gr elaphos, deer] 1. MOOSE: the common term in… …   English World dictionary

  • elk — elk, elke elke, n. (Zo[ o]l.) The European wild or whistling swan ({Cygnus ferus}). [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Elk — ([e^]lk), prop. n. a member of the fraternal organization named Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, supporting various services to their communities. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Elk [2] — Elk, 1) Grafschaft im Staate Pennsylvanien (Nordamerika), 37 QM.; Flüsse: Clarion River u. die Quellenarme des Sinnemahoning Creek; Boden gebirgig (namentlich im Süden Elk Mountain) u. waldig; Hauptproduct: Bauholz, dann etwas Mais u. Hafer,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • elk — [ elk ] noun count a type of large DEER that lives in North America, Europe, and Asia: MOOSE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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