Unicorn Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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We all have heard of the unicorn. This fictional creature has been in thousands and thousands of works of literature, TV shows, and movies. It’s one of those symbols that everybody knows about from a young age. 

Did you know that there are multiple definitions for the word unicorn? This word is more versatile than you might think, and it has several definitions that many people don’t even know exist. 

Today’s word of the day is unicorn. Let’s get started. 

What Is the Meaning of Unicorn?

When you picture a unicorn in your head, a very vivid picture of a horse with a horn comes to mind. But this word means more than just that. Here are the definitions for the word unicorn, pronounced ˈju nɪˌkɔrn:

  • A fictional creature that looks like a horse, usually white, with a single horn coming out of its forehead
  • A startup business that is valued at over $1 billion
  • Something or someone that is incredibly difficult or nearly impossible to find
  • A combination of colors that creates a whimsical, fantasy feeling — usually mixtures of pink, purple, light green, light blue, and white

As you can see, there are more definitions than you might have thought. But all of them have one idea in common: rarity. 

The Creature

A unicorn, in the traditional sense, is what you picture in your head: a white horse with a unicorn horn in the center of its forehead, kind of like a rhinoceros, but more beautiful. This imaginary creature is often associated with rainbows and magic. 

Fun Fact: The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

The Startup

Next, a unicorn can also mean a startup company with a valuation of over $1 billion. Because of how rare this phenomenon is, it is called a unicorn. This can really only happen through an incredibly successful venture capital fundraising strategy. 

Something Rare

Any incredibly rare thing can be called a unicorn. It’s a piece of imagery that can be used to show how impossible something is to find. 

The Colors

Because of the mythical creature’s association with rainbows, the color palate called unicorn has come about. It has bright colors like pink, purple, green, blue, and white. This color scheme is mostly used for children’s toys, rooms, and clotihing.  

Where Did the Word Unicorn Come From?

To help clarify the definition of unicorn, let’s look at its etymology — AKA, the story of how it came to be.

The word unicorn, like many other words in the English language, has its roots in Latin. The word is actually the combination of the Latin prefix -uni, meaning “single,” and the Latin cornu, which means “horn.” 

Unicorn is also associated with a Greek phrase of similar meaning: monokerōs. All of these words gave rise to the Latin unicornis, which was used to describe the magical creature we know as a unicorn. 

The Latin unicornis transferred directly into Old French, with the same spelling and definition. From there, the word found its way to Middle English in the form we know today: unicorn. 

The Ancient Unicorn

The ancient people understood the unicorn to be a bit of a different creature than we picture today. The earliest description came from the Greek man Ctesias. He wrote about his journey to India, where he described a creature like a horse with a red head and a white, red, and black horn. If you drank from the horn, you could be immune to disease. 

In the first century CE, Pliny the Elder described the unicorn as a horse with the feet of an elephant and the tail of a boar or a lion’s tail that he saw in his travels to India. It would seem that both of these accounts are describing the rhinoceros of India. 

In the 3rd century, the unicorn began working its way into religious symbolism. When Alexandrian scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek, they replaced the Hebrew word re êm, meaning “wild ox,” with the Greek monoceros, which means “unicorn.” This lead to the unicorn being associated with good virtue, chastity, and purity. 

What Are Some Examples of the Word Unicorn in a Sentence?

Seeing a word in context can help explore its definition and its practical uses. Here are some example sentences with the word unicorn.

As the adventurers and mages walked through the forest at twilight, suddenly, a unicorn with a spiraled horn appeared. 

The constellation Monoceros is in the shape of a unicorn. 

My niece has been so obsessed with magic, princesses, and unicorns recently.

He started a unicorn company that made computer chips, and he’s been rich ever since. 

I can’t believe you found that bottle of wine. It’s a true unicorn. 

My niece had this super fun unicorn-colored cake. It was so bright! 

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Unicorn?

Here are some synonyms of the word unicorn:

  • Creature
  • Rarity
  • One-of-a-kind
  • Novelty
  • Marvel
  • Wonder
  • Anomaly 

What Are Unicorn’s Antonyms?

Now, let’s take a look at its antonyms?

  • Commonality
  • Regularity
  • Normal
  • Commonplace

The Word Unicorn

Unicorns are one-in-a-million. They are so rare (even in worlds where they do exist) that most people will never see them, and the same goes for most of the definitions of this word. Now that you know what unicorn can mean, you can use it in your daily life and writing. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot one.

Sources:

UNICORN | Cambridge English Dictionary  

UNICORN | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico

The Unicorn Myth | World History Encyclopedia