unicorne (s.xii1)

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unicorne (s.xii1)


[ FEW: 14,42a unicornis; Gdf: ; GdfC: 10,822b unicorne; TL: 11,53 unicorne; DEAF: ; DMF:  unicorne; TLF:  unicorne; OED:  unicorn n.; MED:  unicorn(e n.; DMLBS: 3557a unicornuus ]
unicorn,  unicorde 258.XXI.974 unicorz 98.91.10  

Continental French has both unicorne and the altered form licorne (regarded by FEW 14,42b, and Hope, Lexical Borrowing, 42-43, as deriving from Italian, as a reduction of lunicorno where one syllable is lost, so l(un)icorno became licorno). English has only unicorn. Anglo-Norman unicorne referred to both the (mythological) unicorn or any (real) one-horned animal, notably the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis, which has only one horn whereas the African rhinoceros has two). Medieval descriptions of this (mythological) unicorn, found notably in Brunetto Latini, and including that in the Anglo-Norman Petite Philosophie, appear ultimately to derive from Pliny the Elder’s Historia naturalis (Book VIII, XXXI) possibly via the medieval Imago Mundi Isidore of Seville, in his Etymologiæ, distinguishes between the rhinoceros and the monoceros, a Greek word meaning “one-horned” which he translates into the Latin unicornus. The remainder of his account (particularly the reference to the practice whereby hunters use a virgin as a decoy to soothe the otherwise uncapturable unicorn) expands considerably on Pliny’s, and the same story makes its way into Brunetto Latini. It is the basis of much of the medieval iconography of the unicorn, and of figurative and religious interpretations of it.


1mammalsone-horned animal, monoceros, (Indian) rhinoceros
( MS: c.1250 )  hic ricionerus (l. rinocerus) unicornis: unicorne  i 426.443
2mythologicalhorsesunicorn, a mythological creature with one horn, resembling a horse but with a stag's head
( s.xii1; MS: 1155-60 )  Kar li felun perirunt, e li enemi del Seignur gloriant sicume unicorne(Latin: et inimici Domini gloriantes monocerotes)  62.XXXVI.20
( s.xii3/4; MS: s.xiv2 )  Car la outre en cel val, en cel wast desertez, Entre les bises roches qe getent les clartez, Serpenz e granz dragons hidus i troverez, Tigres e unicornes, [e] lions affamez  4427
( s.xii3/4; MS: s.xiv2 )  la sunt li olifant, li lion e li serpent, La sont les unicorns e mon[o]ceros ensement  5477
( c.1230; MS: 1275-85 )  Monoceros i meint en sum, Ke nus unicorne numum: Cors de cheval, chief ad cervin, Piez d'olifant, cue porcin  689
( s.xiiiex; MS: 1307-15 )  Leounesse ou lovesse  (ed. louesse) ou unicorne est femme tant dis come ele est enirree  217.19
( s.xivin; MS: s.xivm )  Barleam counte en soun livere qe un homme en desert aperceut qe un unicorn lui suist as talons, dount il se mist en un arbre e la se tynt [...] Cesti unicorn dount ici parloms, ceo est la mort qe nous syut jour et nuit; le arbre est ceo mound en qi nous trop affium  46
This is an AND2 Phase 4 (N-O/U-P-Q) entry. © 2013-17 The Anglo-Norman Dictionary. Updated AND2 Phase 6 (T-Z) © 2022-25 The Anglo-Norman Dictionary. All rights reserved. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom.