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In 1688 two new words entered the annals of written English: rhino and rhinocerical. These words surely must owe their coinage to some slang corruption of the zoological word rhinoceros, but in both cases by the time they were written down they referred solely to wealth: 'rhino' was slang for money, and 'rhinocerical' was slang for "having lots of rhino".

The words were to suffer very different fates. Rhinocerical took off, soon coming to mean "as heavy or unwieldy as a rhinoceros" (1689) and then later used to describe a nose that could fittingly be compared with that of a rhinoceros (1710). However, as late as 1796 rhinocerical was still listed in Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue as still referring to the wealthy.

Meanwhile, rhino stagnated, becoming fixed in meaning as a common term for money, most often in the phrase 'ready rhino', referring to cash on hand. Not until 1884 did it start to be used as a common shortening of 'rhinoceros'. Sadly, both words have now regressed towards their roots, referring most often the animal.

Rhi`no*ce"ri*al (?), Rhi`no*cer"ic*al (?), a. Zool.

Of or pertaining to the rhinoceros; resembling the rhinoceros, or his horn.

Tatler.

 

© Webster 1913.

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