from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small container made of horn or a similar material, formerly used to hold ink for writing.
  • adjective Affectedly or ostentatiously learned; pedantic.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A portable case for ink and writing-instruments, made of a horn, or (usually) of wood or metal, formerly in common use in Europe, and still in some parts of the East. See kalamdan.
  • noun In heraldry See penner.
  • Pertaining to an inkhorn, or to a writer or pedant; bookish; pedantic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective obsolete Learned; pedantic; affected.
  • noun A small bottle of horn or other material formerly used for holding ink; an inkstand; a portable case for writing materials.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun archaic A small portable container, often made of horn, used to carry ink.
  • noun used attributively, pejorative, of vocabulary Pedantic, obscurely scholarly.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English inkhorn ("small portable vessel, originally made of horn, used to hold ink"), equivalent to ink +‎ horn.


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  • The word "inkhorn" was used by the translators, because in former times in this country horns were used for containing ink.

    Easton's Bible Dictionary M.G. Easton 1897

  • Salvation is peculiarly assigned to Him, and so He bears the "inkhorn" in order to "mark" His elect (Eze 9: 4; compare Ex 12: 7; Re 7: 3; 9: 4; 13: 16, 17; 20: 4), and to write their names in His book of life (Re 13: 8).

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 1871

  • He rejected "inkhorn" terms, arguing that "... for devising of newe termes, and compounding of wordes, our tongue hath a speciall grace, wherein it excelleth many other, and is comparable with the best."

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol IX No 1 1982

  • Go, good partner, go, get you to Francis Seacole; bid him bring his pen and inkhorn to the gaol: we are now to examination these men.

    Much Ado About Nothing 2004

  • Therefore as the Greek hath fewer words to express this thing than the Hebrew, so hath the Latin fewer than the Greek, and the English fewest of all, as will appear if you would undertake to give us English words for the thirteen Hebrew words: except you would coin such ridiculous inkhorn terms, as you do in the

    Early Theories of Translation Flora Ross Amos

  • Grimald in his preface to his translation of Cicero's De Officiis, protests against the translation that is "uttered with inkhorn terms and not with usual words.

    Early Theories of Translation Flora Ross Amos

  • Once, indeed, he guides her hand to transcribe in a book the words of her exaltation, the Ave, and the Magnificat, and the Gaude Maria, and the young angels, glad to rouse her for a moment from her dejection, are eager to hold the inkhorn and to support the book.

    English literary criticism Various

  • 'Yes,' answered he; and she gave him inkhorn and pen and paper and said to him, 'Write somewhat, that I may see it.'

    The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume III Anonymous 1879

  • We cannot imagine an officer with pen, inkhorn, and paper, at a period when few could write, 'booking' the dead.

    Literary Blunders Henry Benjamin Wheatley 1877

  • Wilson claimed to deplore the use of “inkhorn terms,” those wrought words that sounded pretentious, unnatural—un-English.

    The English Is Coming! Leslie Dunton-Downer 2010


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  • Affectedly or ostentatiously learned; pedantic.

    October 8, 2007

  • See penner and penner and inkhorn. The pen-case and inkhorn were once carried one one's person tied to a belt or to a button-hole. These objects appear in coats-of-arms, frequently joined by a ribbon.

    December 9, 2010

  • Some neurological sequela is forcing me to specify that Inkhorn Leghorn would be Foghorn Leghorn's city cousin.

    July 3, 2013

  • It's as obscure as scholarlily.

    December 17, 2017

  • (noun) - It was the custom for persons much employed in writing to carry ink, pens, &c. in a horn. Hence inkhorn terms, studied expressions that savour of the inkhorn. A very favorite expression, for a time.

    --Robert Nares' Glossary of the Works of English Authors, 1859

    January 19, 2018