Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've heard a few ways of describing such a fantastical beast, but I don't know which is correct.

enter image description here

They are known as both Alicorns (Ali supposedly from ala (wing) and Corn meaning horn), as well as Pegi(a)corn, a portmanteau of Pegasus and Unicorn (I've seen both an i and an a used).

which of these is most 'correct' and did one come first? Furthermore wikipedia says that

Alicorn

The horn itself [of the unicorn] and the substance it was made of was called alicorn, and it was believed that the horn holds magical and medicinal properties

So that would make my supposed etymology above wrong.

share|improve this question
    
I asked this on english.se but it was power closed in 10 minutes as 'too localized'. – AncientSwordRage Apr 27 '12 at 16:14
2  
MLP call Princess Celestia a Pegasus unicorn. – DavRob60 Apr 27 '12 at 16:33
2  
@DavRob: There's some argument over whether they're called alicorns or not, see the note attached to that classification. – RCIX Apr 28 '12 at 1:33
1  
May I suggest "chimera'? – Beta Apr 29 '12 at 5:14
2  
@Pureferret: Classically it's one of these. More generally it's a monster made of pieces of different animals; the winged unicorn (or whatever) is a recently invented union of two ancient mythological monsters (from different cultures, both already chimerae, so maybe I should call it a metachimera). – Beta Apr 29 '12 at 14:21
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Alicorn is the most common word used to describe said beast, however, in the Xanth series, there are also PegaCorns and UniPegs. All three creatures look exactly the same in the series, which is a subtle joke, and the only way to tell them apart is to ask them.

This lists references citations where Alicorn is used to denote a winged unicorn. I can find no such list for any other word that could mean the same thing. Note that the first use of the word according to that is by Piers Anthony, the author of the Xanth series I note above. He may have have coined the use of Alicorn as a flying unicorn in 1984, in his book "Bearing an Hourglass", but there are sources from earlier than that which imply that he di not, see below. I'm going to research this further, as I distinctly remember reading about Alicorns in another of Anthony;s books, one of the Xanth books as I note above, prior to reading the series that contains "Bearing an Hourglass". When I find the canonical reference I will edit this and include the title and page number of the first place I see it in the Xanth series as well.

This text, from 1930, clearly lists an Alicorn as a seperate creature from a Unicorn, along with a Monocerous and a Rhinocerous, and suggests that all four beasts horns have magical properties.

Here is another text with the use of an Alicorn as it's own beast as well, although not descriptive, it says that an Alicorn has a curved horn, and it's from 1930.

Interestingly enough, as an aside, here is a text that cites Alicorn as being a real substance, most likely being the horns of Narwhals that were found and attributed to having belonged to a Unicorn. Here is a story in which the plot revolves around Unicorns being chased by the antagonist into the ocean, perhaps the author is suggesting that's what happened to Unicorns in reality.

share|improve this answer
1  
So we've migrated the question and the answer to a better SE? – AncientSwordRage Apr 27 '12 at 16:18
3  
English seems to be a Very Serious Site. They probably don't like to acknowledge that there are words for non-existent creatures. :P – Gabe Willard Apr 27 '12 at 16:53
1  
By the way, can you substaniate you commend about alicorns being the most common name? – AncientSwordRage Apr 27 '12 at 18:46
1  
+1 because anything Xanth is awesome in my opinion. – OghmaOsiris Apr 28 '12 at 0:00
2  
Good answer, though +1 in spite of Xanth. Also, my Niece says that "Alicorns" is proper, so you might want to cite that. – peacedog May 2 '12 at 17:40

The pictures in fantasy art of "winged unicorns" do not depict the winged unicorn used in heraldry (a heraldic "ronaldus"), but rather a horse with wings (a heradic "pegasus") with a horn in the forehead. In heraldry, a unicorn is not a horse, but rather a chimaera with the body of a horse, a goat's cloven hooves and beard, a lion's tail, and a horn. The "ronaldus" is rare in heraldry outside of western Scotland. Heraldically, a typical teenage girl's wall-poster features a horned pegasus, not a ronaldus.

share|improve this answer
2  
… while a typical teenage boy's wall-poster features a Ronaldo, not a Pegasus. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 4 at 0:14

Like the Latin roots of the word unicorn, uni meaning "one" and cornu meaning "horn", there is a Greek word for the same beast, monoceres, whch shares some root words with the same meanings: mono meaning "one" and ceres meaning "horn". With this in mind, you would think the word Alicorn would be just as simple.

Wrong. Alicorn seems to be a bit more flexible with its root words. As you've already stated, it is the horn of a unicorn, but the root word of ali can be easily misconstrued. Check out this redit page and read all comments to get the drift: https://www.reddit.com/r/mylittlepony/comments/18aja5/adventures_in_etymology_alicorn/

Apparently ancient man had no idea what to make of the true animals of the world with horns, so we get a lot of different versions of the myth of the creature. The horn of a rhinoceros is still used in medicine today, which is another reason these magnificent creatures are being hunted to extinction. The Rhino's name comes from the Greek root words rhino which means "nose" and, once again, ceres, same as the Monoceres which is what it was considered once upon a time. The Orynx and many other animals with horns and antlers have also been subject to this, such as the narwhal which has been mentioned by someone else on this thread. It may even by that people found horned creatures like goats with a mutation of one horn on its forehead. There was a deer that was discovered recently that did have this mutation.

Now I did a search on the same subject a long time ago and came across the Ethiopian Unicorn, which is the earliest record of an African unicorn, however this creature has two horns, not one. This does not, by any means, mean it is not a unicorn in ancient times, but it may not be the same creature you’re seeking. The Greek term, Cerapter, which is a combination of the word ceres meaning "horn" and pteros meaning "wings", supposedly is the correct term, but barely anyone even knows this word so I cannot verify this with 100% certainty.

On another note, the term Pterippus could be the possible correct word for the winged horse. Pegasus is the name of the specific horse that sprang from the neck of the once human mortal she-monster Medusa, beheaded by Perseus and impregnated by Poseidon whose symbol is the horse. This is the horse that is captured, tamed, and ridden by Bellephron in the Greek myth.

http://users.cwnet.com/xephyr/rich/fantasy/Pegopedia.html I got that a good chunk of the information above from this article. Check it out for some even more interesting mythical horse creatures.

Just a footnote, but the unicorns of true myth were not horses with horns but a combination of the features of different animals, and they were nasty. They were not necessarily evil, but they were beasts to ancient man that embodied the pure unbridled fury of nature. They could kill a small army of men just as easily as the more aggressive dragons of myth could. They didn't like humans at all, but because virgin women were viewed as pure, it was considered the only thing that could tame them long enough for hunters to kill it and acquire its power. This is why most people today believe they are pure creatures that are for little girls only. I believe the only truly good unicorn was the Asian version which was used in court to judge who was guilty and who wasn't, but I challenge anyone out there to do their homework and prove me wrong.

There are many different types of unicorn myths in the world, and I'd like to encourage people not to stick with the very common European white unicorn. However, they don't have to be beasts like in myth. You can make your up your own. I prefer to think of them like the Asian dragons, wise and intelligent, a mix of both modern and original flavors.

Also, if I have anything incorrect, please doesn't hesitate to step in to correct me.

share|improve this answer

According to MLP,(My Little Pony) they are known as alicorns. They do have wings and a horn. All of the alicorns in the series are known to be royal. Alicorns in MLP are special because they are all princesses.

share|improve this answer
2  
Even if the content in your answer is technically correct, you are not adding anything new to what the question already said. Even the term "alicorn" was part of the question's content. – Kreann Nov 23 '14 at 2:17

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.