- the largest and most powerful of the great apes (Gorilla gorilla), native to the jungles of equatorial Africa: the adult male weighs up to 225 kg (c. 500 lb): it is generally shy, intelligent, and herbivorous
- a person regarded as like a gorilla in appearance, strength, etc.
- a gangster; thug
Origin of gorillaModL, arbitrary use (1847) by T. Savage (1804-80), United States physician and amp; clergyman, of assumed nominative singular of Classical Greek gorillai, form used by Classical Greek translators of Hanno, Carthaginian navigator (fl. early 5th circa ), for his name for a tribe of hairy human beings in western Africa (said to be their local name)
- Either of two large apes (Gorilla gorilla or G. beringei) native to the forests of equatorial Africa, having a stocky body and coarse dark brown or black hair.
- Slang a. A powerfully built, aggressive, and often crude man.b. A thug.
Origin of gorillaNew Latin (Tr&omacron;glodyt&emacron;s) gorilla, former species name, from Greek Gorillai, a tribe of hairy women, perhaps of African origin. Word History: Two traditions of exploration come together in the history of the word gorilla. When Dr. Thomas S. Savage, an American missionary to western Africa, made the first scientific description of a gorilla in 1847, he gave the animal he was describing the New Latin name Troglodytes gorilla. In formulating this name, Savage was making reference to the Periplus, an ancient Greek version of a report (originally written in Punic) in which Hanno, a Carthiginian public official and navigator, describes a voyage he undertook to West Africa. Sometime after 500 BC (the date of his voyage is uncertain), Hanno sailed out of the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar and followed the coast of Africa southward at least as far as Sierra Leone—perhaps even going as far as Cameroon. In his report, Hanno tells of seeing members of a tribe of hairy women called Gorillai, the name of which he allegedly learned from local informants. In fact, the Gorillai that he saw may have been chimpanzees or perhaps even the apes that we call gorillas today, using the name that Savage bestowed on them twenty-four centuries after Hanno's voyage.
Ancient Greek Γόριλλαι (Gorillai, “a tribe of hairy women”), described by Hanno the Navigator, a Carthaginian navigator and possible visitor to the area that later became Sierra Leone.