1. one of the bony, permanent, hollow paired growths, often curved and pointed, that project from the upper part of the head of certain ungulate mammals, as cattle, sheep, goats, or antelopes.
  2. a similar growth, sometimes of hair, as the median horn or horns on the snout of the rhinoceros, or the tusk of the narwhal.
  3. antler.
  4. a process projecting from the head of an animal and suggestive of such a growth, as a feeler, tentacle, or crest.
  5. the bony substance of which such animal growths are composed.
  6. any similar substance, as that forming tortoise shell, hoofs, nails, or corns.
  7. an article made of the material of an animal horn or like substance, as a thimble, spoon, or shoehorn.
  8. any projection or extremity resembling the horn of an animal.
  9. something resembling or suggesting an animal horn: a drinking horn.
  10. a part resembling an animal horn attributed to deities, demons, etc.: the devil’s horn.
  11. Usually horns. the imaginary projections on a cuckold’s brow.
  12. Music.
    1. a wind instrument, originally formed from the hollow horn of an animal but now usually made of brass or other metal or plastic.
    2. French horn.
  13. something used as or resembling such a wind instrument.
  14. Slang. a trumpet.
  15. an instrument for sounding a warning signal: an automobile horn.
  16. Aeronautics. any of certain short, armlike levers on the control surfaces of an airplane.
  17. Radio.
    1. a tube of varying cross section used in some loudspeakers to couple the diaphragm to the sound-transmitting space.
    2. Slang.a loudspeaker.
  18. Slang. a telephone or radiotelephone: I’ve been on the horn all morning.
  19. the high protuberant part at the front and top of certain saddles; a pommel, especially a high one.
  20. Carpentry. (in a door or window frame) that part of a jamb extending above the head.
  21. one of the curved extremities of a crescent, especially of the crescent moon.
  22. a crescent-shaped tract of land.
  23. a pyramidal mountain peak, especially one having concave faces carved by glaciation.
  24. a symbol of power or strength, as in the Bible: a horn of salvation.
  25. each of the alternatives of a dilemma.
  26. the narrow, more pointed part of an anvil.
  27. ear tuft.
  28. Metalworking. a projection at the side of the end of a rolled sheet or strip, caused by unevenness of the roll due to wear.
  29. Horology. (in a lever escapement) either of the two prongs at the end of the lever fork guarding against overbanking when the guard pin is in the crescent.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cuckold.
  2. to butt or gore with the horns.
  3. Shipbuilding. to set up (a frame or bulkhead of a vessel being built) at a proper angle to the keel with due regard to the inclination of the keel on the ways; plumb.


  1. made of horn.
  1. blow/toot one’s own horn, Informal. to publicize or boast about one’s abilities or achievements: He’s a bright fellow, but likes to blow his own horn too much.
  2. draw/pull in one’s horns, to restrain oneself or become less belligerent; retreat: Since he lost so much gambling, he’s drawn in his horns a bit.
  3. horn in, Informal. to thrust oneself forward obtrusively; intrude or interrupt: Every time we try to have a private conversation, the boss horns in.
  4. lock horns, to conflict, quarrel, or disagree: The administration and the staff locked horns over the proposed measures.
  5. on the horns of a dilemma, confronted with two equally disagreeable choices.


  1. Cape See Cape Horn


  1. either of a pair of permanent outgrowths on the heads of cattle, antelopes, sheep, etc, consisting of a central bony core covered with layers of keratinRelated adjectives: corneous, keratoid
  2. the outgrowth from the nasal bone of a rhinoceros, consisting of a mass of fused hairs
  3. any hornlike projection or process, such as the eyestalk of a snail
  4. the antler of a deer
    1. the constituent substance, mainly keratin, of horns, hooves, etc
    2. (in combination)horn-rimmed spectacles
  5. a container or device made from this substance or an artificial substitutea shoe horn; a drinking horn
  6. an object or part resembling a horn in shape, such as the points at either end of a crescent, the point of an anvil, the pommel of a saddle, or a cornucopia
  7. a primitive musical wind instrument made from the horn of an animal
  8. any musical instrument consisting of a pipe or tube of brass fitted with a mouthpiece, with or without valvesSee hunting horn, French horn, cor anglais
  9. jazz slang any wind instrument
    1. a device for producing a warning or signalling noise
    2. (in combination)a foghorn
  10. (usually plural) the hornlike projection attributed to certain devils, deities, etc
  11. (usually plural) the imaginary hornlike parts formerly supposed to appear on the forehead of a cuckold
  12. Also called: horn balance an extension of an aircraft control surface that projects in front of the hinge providing aerodynamic assistance in moving the control
    1. Also called: acoustic horn, exponential horna hollow conical device coupled to the diaphragm of a gramophone to control the direction and quality of the sound
    2. any such device used to spread or focus sound, such as the device attached to an electrical loudspeaker in a public address system
    3. Also called: horn antennaa microwave aerial, formed by flaring out the end of a waveguide
  13. geology another name for pyramidal peak
  14. a stretch of land or water shaped like a horn
  15. British slang an erection of the penis
  16. Bible a symbol of power, victory, or successin my name shall his horn be exalted
  17. blow one’s horn US and Canadian to boast about oneself; bragBrit equivalent: blow one’s own trumpet
  18. draw in one’s horns or pull in one’s horns
    1. to suppress or control one’s feelings, esp of anger, enthusiasm, or passion
    2. to withdraw a previous statement
    3. to economize
  19. on the horns of a dilemma
    1. in a situation involving a choice between two equally unpalatable alternatives
    2. in an awkward situation

verb (tr)

  1. to provide with a horn or horns
  2. to gore or butt with a horn

Old English horn “horn of an animal,” also “wind instrument” (originally made from animal horns), from Proto-Germanic *hurnaz (cf. German Horn, Dutch horen, Gothic haurn), from PIE *ker- “horn; head, uppermost part of the body,” with derivatives refering to horned animals, horn-shaped objects and projecting parts (cf. Greek karnon “horn,” Latin cornu “horn,” Sanskrit srngam “horn,” Persian sar “head,” Avestan sarah- “head,” Greek koryphe “head,” Latin cervus “deer,” Welsh carw “deer”). Reference to car horns is first recorded 1901. Figurative senses of Latin cornu included “salient point, chief argument; wing, flank; power, courage, strength.” Jazz slang sense of “trumpet” is by 1921. Meaning “telephone” is by 1945.


1690s, “to furnish with horns,” from horn (n.). Earlier in figurative sense of “to cuckold” (1540s). Meaning “to push with the horns” (of cattle, buffalo, etc.) is from 1851, American English; phrase horn in “intrude” is by 1880, American English, originally cowboy slang.


  1. One of the hard, usually permanent structures projecting from the head of certain mammals, such as cattle, consisting of a bony core covered with a sheath of keratinous material.
  2. A hard protuberance that is similar to or suggestive of a horn.
  3. The hard, smooth keratinous material forming the outer covering of animal horns.
  4. Any of the major subdivisions of the lateral ventricle in the cerebral hemisphere of the brain: the frontal horn, occipital horn, and temporal horn.cornu

  1. Either of the bony growths projecting from the upper part of the head of certain hoofed mammals, such as cattle, sheep, and goats. The horns of these animals are never shed, and they consist of bone covered by keratin.
  2. A hard growth that looks like a horn, such as an antler or a growth on the head of a giraffe or rhinoceros. Unlike true horns, antlers are shed yearly and have a velvety covering, and the horns of a rhinoceros are made not of bone but of hairy skin fused with keratin.
  3. The hard durable substance that forms the outer covering of true horns. It consists of keratin.

See blow one’s own horn.

In addition to the idioms beginning with horn

  • horn in on
  • horns of a dilemma, on the

also see:

  • blow one’s own horn
  • lock horns
  • pull in one’s horns
  • take the bull by the horns
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