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What is a Unicorn? A Brief Definition

by Lisa Marcy November 04, 2019 2 min read

what is unicorn definition

What is really a unicorn? What are its characteristics? What are the names associated with unicorns? In this article, we will offer you a definition of unicorns.

What is a unicorn?

The unicorn is a mythological creature usually depicted thought history as a white horse with antelope feet, goat beard, and a horn on his forehead. Today, however, it is also associated to a horse and differs only in the existence of this horn.

Art Unicorn Horn White

"The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn", Domenichino (source)

What do they symbolize?

The unicorn has been mentioned in number of ancient stories and legends. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn symbolized strength, and was depicted as a remarkable creature capable of beating physically powerful animals, including lions.

Art Unicorn Lady Middle Age

"The Lady and the Unicorn" (credit: MusĂ©e de Cluny - MusĂ©e National du Moyen-Âge) / M. Urtado)

When did we first talk about the magical creature?

Three hypotheses attempt to explain the appearance of the unicorn legend in Europe. The first comes from Greek, Roman and Macedonian explorations in India. In this country, unicorns are depicted as single horned creatures, probably Indian rhinos. If the hippopotamus has been described as a "river horse" by Greek explorers, it seems likely that they would similarly describe an Indian rhino as a horse and a horn on its head.

Art Unicorn Rhino

Young rhinoceros or real unicorn, Deacon (source)

What does it means in modern days?

The term unicorn is used nowadays to describe a startup with a value at more than $1 billion. This expression was expressed by Aileen Lee in 2013. He illustrated that less than 0.1% of the companies in which venture capital funds invested had valuations above $1 billion. A unicorn startup is indeed as rare as our legendary creature!

Unicorn Startups Silicon Valley



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