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

Meaning – An obvious and significant issue or problem that is present but deliberately ignored or not openly discussed. This expression refers to a situation that everyone knows about, but doesn’t want to discuss. A very obvious problem that is being ignored.

This idiom often implies a sense of tension, discomfort, or reluctance to confront the problem directly. By acknowledging and addressing the elephant in the room, individuals or groups can engage in open and honest communication, leading to resolution or progress in dealing with the underlying issue.

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:

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.

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