gnu, noun1

gneu, gnoeShow more Also gneu, gnoe, gnoo, gnou, knoo, n’gou, nhoo, and with initial capital.
unchanged, or gnus.
Khoikhoi, San, Show more Khoikhoi and San, perhaps onomatopoeic, imitating the snort of the animal when alarmed; variously written gnu, !nu, !no:, representing the pronunciations /qɪ̃uː/, //, /-ɔ(ː)/; probably originally related to Khoikhoi and San ≠nu black. It appears that the Khoikhoi and San distinguished between !nu, etc. black wildebeest, and San /gaob, Khoikhoi /goab blue wildebeest.
a. wildebeest sense a.
[1777 G. Forster Voy. round World I. 83There is another species of wild ox, called by the natives gnoo.]
1786 G. Forster tr. of A. Sparrman’s Voy. to Cape of G.H. II. 131A gnu..had been seen ranging by itself about this part of the country. T’Gnu is the Hottentot name for a singular animal, which, with respect to its form, is between the horse and the ox.
[1790 tr. of Le Vaillant’s Trav. II. 236The Hottentots name this antelope nou, preceded by that..clapping which I have already mentioned. It was probably this clapping which induced Colonel Gordon to add a g to the proper name, which renders the pronunciation of it almost the same.]
1790 tr. of Le Vaillant’s Trav. II. 283One of my men was bringing in a kind of gazell, called a Gnou.
1802 Truter & Somerville in G.M. Theal Rec. of Cape Col. (1899) IV. 378We saw..many herds of quaggas and Gnoes.
1806 J. Barrow Trav. I.On every side was grazing a multitude of wild animals, as gnoos, [etc.].
1821 T. Pringle Letter to Scott. (N.E.L.M.) 12 JuneThe hills are high..but with..grassy flats among them..frequented by numerous..quaggas, hartebeests, Wildebeests (or Nhoos) [etc.].
1822 J. Campbell Trav. in S. Afr. Second Journey I. 152Many quachas and knoos were seen.
1827 G. Thompson Trav. 120The gnoo here was..different from that on the other side of the Cradock, being of a dark blue colour, and having a black bushy tail, instead of a white one.
1836 A.F. Gardiner Journey to Zoolu Country 329Here the first gneu was seen.
1837 N. Polson Subaltern’s Sick Leave 131The skin of the wildebeest or gnu when brayed, is used for reims or thongs to harness the oxen.
1850 N.J. Merriman Cape Jrnls (1957) 141A troop of these snorting gnus..dashed into the vley to drink.
1878 H.A. Roche On Trek in Tvl 271The wilder-beest or gnu is more clumsy, and has a far more formidable look than any other of its species.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 189Gnu,..This animal only found on a few farms, where it is carefully preserved, in the Orange River Colony.
1930 S.T. Plaatje Mhudi (1975) 37A frisky troop of gnu among the distant trees.
1945 F.C. Slater New Centenary Bk of S. Afr. Verse 227An ungainly antelope..termed Gnu from its loud bellowing snort.
1951 T.V. Bulpin Lost Trails of Low Veld 263His proper English name, the gnu, is surely the only word of Bushman ever to have found a place in the composite English language.
1982 E. Prov. Herald 23 July 9Why not a gnuburger..?
1985 C. Walker Signs of Wild (1987) 189The name Gnu is derived from the Hottentot word referring to the sound it makes.
b. With distinguishing epithet:
black gnu, black wildebeest (see wildebeest sense b);
brindled gnu, blue wildebeest (see wildebeest sense b);
white-tailed gnu, black wildebeest (see wildebeest sense b).
1866 J. Leyland Adventures 75A troop of Veldebeests, or Black Gnoos, came..past.
1898 G. Nicholson 50 Yrs 21Black gnus and springbuck grazed.
a1936 E.N. Marais Soul of Ape (1973) 82Vast herds gnu (Connochaetes gnou) one time covered the great inland plains.
1838 J.E. Alexander Exped. into Int. II. 144These were the parts of a Kaop (master) buck or brindled gnu.
1863 J.H. Speke Jrnl of Disc. of Nile 36‘The bags’ we made counted two brindled gnŭ, [etc.].
1983 Nat. Geog. Mag. Mar. 355Blue wildebeests, also known as brindled gnus.
1990 Skinner & Smithers Mammals of Sn Afr. Subregion 614The blue wildebeest is also referred to as the brindled gnu, a name which has now largely fallen out of use.
1889 Cent. Dict.Gnu,..Common or White-tailed Gnu.
1896 R. Ward Rec. of Big Game 92The White-tailed Gnu, or..Black Wildbeeste, is assuredly one of the most extravagant of nature’s creations...Its extraordinary activity..and..mad pranks..render it easily distinguishable form its cousin, the brindled gnu.
1972 Grocott’s Mail 12 May 3The..white-tailed gnu..have come from..the Free State.
1990 Skinner & Smithers Mammals of Sn Afr. Subregion 612The characteristic and most obvious feature of black wildebeest is their white tails and often they are referred to as white-tailed wildebeest or white-tailed gnu.
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