Introduction by M. PHILIP KAHL and CHARLES SANTIAPILLAI, Compilers

We hope this elephant terms glossary will be useful to anyone reading about elephants, who encounters an unfamiliar term.

Words have been collected from many sources, over a number of years. Please bear in mind that such a work will always be less-than-complete, very much a work-in-progress. It is an on-going project; many definitions will need modification. We invite you, please, to contribute your comments.

We realize that any such listing will always be a subjective choice and have tried to be "inclusive" rather than "exclusive", reasoning that a term can be skipped over more easily than searched for elsewhere.

Some words apply to animals in general. In those cases, we have tried to show how they relate to elephants, specifically. And several references are given, which will lead the reader to further information. These references are not meant to be exhaustive but merely to show how a term applies to elephants.

We have surveyed many publications that contain glossaries, and selected those items that have special relevance to elephants.

Non-English terms (listed in italics), are found especially in older regional publications. Synonyms are listed under the heading of the most commonly used term.

The close collaboration between Joyce Poole/Petter Granli and Phil Kahl has lead to this online version of the glossary. They have both contributed with comments during the time-consuming compiling process. The linked glossary document will reflect periodic updates and changes/corrections. The glossary is intended to be "downloaded" into your computer, where a specific word can then be located with the "FIND" feature. The icon Glossary of Terms (6.79 MB) has been published in Gajah, 23: 1-36, 2004.

Readers are encouraged to send any comments/corrections/suggested changes to both authors. These may be sent by email to: and, or by post to:

Elephant Research Foundation, West
100 Mountain Road
Sedona, Arizona 86351

Department of Zoology
University of Peradeniya

We have created the beginning. Now it is up to other elephant-workers to contribute and make it more useful to all.

Download version 1 of the glossary in .zip format (when opened you have a searchable .doc) here: icon Kahl P, Santiapillai, C. 2004. Elephant Terms Glossary. (58.26 kB)


Special thanks to Billie Armstrong, for assistance with the references and in many other ways.

We thank the following persons for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this glossary:
Billie D. Armstrong, Fiona Capstick, Robert H. I. Dale, Marion Garai, Petter Granli, Melissa Groo, Debbie Olson, Joyce Poole, Bruce A. Schulte, Hezy Shoshani, Sylvia I. Taylor.