“Elephant in the Room” – What Does this Interesting Idiom Mean?

You may have heard someone use the phrase ‘the elephant in the room’ and wondered what on earth they were talking about. We are going to take a look at the meaning of this saying and where it derived from. We will also look at how you can use this phrase in a conversation.

“Elephant in the Room”

“Elephant in the Room” Meaning

When someone says that there is an ‘elephant in the room’ they are referring to a subject that everyone present is aware of but nobody wants to start a conversation about, leaving an awkwardness in the air.

Origin of this idiom

The earliest written recording of this term in the sense it is used today was in 1952 in the Charleston gazette and referred to an Indian saying. The term was then used in a book from the 1980s aimed at children of alcoholics and how they might discuss the ‘elephant in the room.’

“Elephant in the Room” Examples

Example Sentences

You might use this saying to describe the atmosphere in a room when there is a difficult topic of conversation that nobody wants to talk about. For example, you might say something along the lines of

  • ‘It was so awkward at Charles’ house this morning, the huge bruise on his head was a massive elephant in the room, I had to leave in the end, it was so difficult.’

You could also use the term to ask if an uncomfortable topic is going to be discussed. You could say

  • ‘So, are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?’

Conversation Examples

If you are curious about how this phrase would fit into a day to day conversation, here are some examples of how it would sound.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “We have come to this meeting to discuss a number of things.”
  • Person 2: “Yes, we need to talk about finances, profit and budgeting.”
  • Person 1: “And I will start the conversation about the elephant in the room now so that it is out of the way.”

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “Are you coming to dinner tonight?”
  • Person 2: “That depends on whether we are going to discuss the elephant in the room first.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are plenty of ways in which you might refer to an ‘elephant in the room.’ Some of the other ways you might say this could be like the following examples.

  • A sore point
  • Gorilla in the room
  • An ignored issue
  • Avoided problem

What Does “Elephant in the Room” Mean? | Picture

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