English Idiom – Elephant in the room or Elephant in the living room

Meaning – An obvious problem or issue that people avoid talking about or even acknowledge. This expression refers to a situation that everyone knows about, but doesn’t want to discuss. A very obvious problem that is being ignored.

The problem or issue that is being avoided might be controversial or embarrassing. Alternatively this could be something that is liable to cause an argument (argy-bargy) or a fight.

Related Vocabulary:


When could you use this idiom?

  • Your family had a huge argument yesterday, but are trying to act as if nothing happened today.
  • A friend has arrived at a party with a bruised face, but nobody is brave enough to ask what happened.
  • During a company meeting nobody will address a major error made by the boss during a previous event.
  • “We are having a family get together tomorrow afternoon. Our whole family knows my mother was unfaithful, so we will spend the whole evening trying to avoid that elephant in the room!”
In The News:
  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?
What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.