elephant in the room

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elephant in the room

a major problem or controversial issue that is present but is ignored or not discussed because it is uncomfortable to do so
Abused, Confused, & Misused Words by Mary Embree Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Mary Embree


1. Any of several very large herbivorous mammals of the family Elephantidae native to Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, having thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and, in the African species, large fan-shaped ears.
2. Any of various extinct animals of the family Elephantidae.
elephant in the room
A matter or problem that is obvious or of great importance but that is not discussed openly.

[Middle English elefaunt, from Old French elefant, from Latin elephantus, from Greek elephās, elephant-, ivory, elephant, probably of Afro-Asiatic origin; akin to Tawllemet (Berber language of Mali) eləw and Mokilko (Chadic language of central Chad) 'êlbi, elephant, and possibly also to Egyptian 3bw, elephant, ivory, and Oromo arba, elephant.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.