AskDefine | Define gnu

Dictionary Definition

gnu n : large African antelope having a head with horns like an ox and a long tufted tail [syn: wildebeest]

User Contributed Dictionary



Taken from , which likely imitated it from the grunt-type noise that a gnu makes.


  • (RP) /njuː/, /nju:/
  • (US) /nuː/, /nu:/
    Rhymes: -uː



  • GNU (the computing project)


  1. A large antelope native to Africa having curved horns.



large antelope






  1. gnu.

Extensive Definition

The wildebeest (plural, wildebeest or wildebeests), also called the gnu ( or /ˈnjuː/), is an antelope of the genus Connochaetes. It is a hooved (ungulate) mammal. It looks like a mixture of features between a cow and a horse.
Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the Black Wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the Blue Wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). Gnus belong to the family Bovidae'', which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates.
Wildebeest grow to 3 ft 9 in–4 ft 7 in (1.15–1.4 metres) at the shoulder and weigh 330–550 pounds (150–250 kilograms). They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti. Wildebeest can live more than 20 years.


The principal food source of wildebeests is grasses. The seasonal nature of the African grasslands forces wildebeest to migrate. The main migration is in May, when around 1.5 million animals move from the plains to the woods; they return in November as summer rains water the plains.
The name wildebeest finds its origin in the Dutch and Afrikaans words wild and beest, which mean "wild animal" and "beest" in Afrikaans means "cattle" (or "steer"). Although the name is derived from the Dutch language, the name wildebeest doesn't officially exist in the Dutch language. The Dutch name for wildebeest is gnoe (where the Dutch "g" is pronounced [x], as in loch).
Afrikaners (Afrikaans-speaking South Africans) may have started using the name wildebeest for the animal as they had no other name for it when it was first encountered. "Gnu" is from a Khoikhoi language (which pronounced the [g]), likely an imitation of the grunting noise that a wildebeest makes.
The pronunciation of [gnuː] was popularised in English by the comic song "The Gnu" by Flanders and Swann, in which all words starting with n have a g prepended: 'I'm a g-nu, I'm a g-nu, the g-nicest work of g-nature in the zoo.'

See also

gnu in Bulgarian: Гну
gnu in Catalan: Nyu
gnu in Danish: Gnu
gnu in German: Gnus
gnu in Esperanto: Gnuo
gnu in Spanish: Connochaetes
gnu in Finnish: Gnut
gnu in French: Gnou
gnu in Galician: Ñu
gnu in Hebrew: גנו (בעל חיים)
gnu in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Gnu
gnu in Ido: Gnuo
gnu in Italian: Connochaetes
gnu in Japanese: ヌー
gnu in Dutch: Gnoes
gnu in Norwegian Nynorsk: Gnu
gnu in Norwegian: Gnuer
gnu in Portuguese: Gnu
gnu in Russian: Гну
gnu in Serbian: Гну
gnu in Swedish: Gnuer
gnu in Turkish: Afrika antilopu
gnu in Chinese: 角馬

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Cape elk, Virginia deer, antelope, buck, camel, camelopard, caribou, deer, deerlet, doe, dromedary, eland, elk, fallow deer, fawn, gazelle, giraffe, hart, hartebeest, hind, kaama, moose, mule deer, musk deer, okapi, red deer, reindeer, roe, roe deer, roebuck, springbok, stag, wildebeest
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1