All the Names
So lately, there have been questions as to whether or not the princesses' true species name is "alicorn" or not. On the crew's side of the show, it appears the word "Pegacorn" has been used in the scripts, although the writers have definitely acknowledged the name "alicorn", most especially in the naming of the Alicorn amulet. However, it is also true that "alicorn" means the substance that comprises a unicorn's horn, and that there are other names for winged unicorns as well. With such a conflict between meanings and proper terms, I decided to do my research on the subject of "winged unicorns" and find out which, if any, of their names is the most appropriate.
My research yielded no less than seven different names for winged unicorns, and that's not including the two-word names such as "winged unicorn" and "horned Pegasus". Counting those, there are twelve different names. What is more, the term “alicorn” has two other spellings used to differentiate it from the “unicorn horn” meaning, bringing the total number of options to fourteen.I will now examine each of these options in closer detail.
I'll start with the obvious and work my way down. "Winged unicorn" appears to be the most popular general term for these creatures, being the name of the Wikipedia article and all. On the article itself, it reads, and I quote,
"Also known as a 'Pegacorn', a winged unicorn is a fictional equine with the wings of a pegasus and the horn of a unicorn. People have commonly mistaken the word 'alicorn' as a Winged Unicorn, which is actually the theoretical substance of a unicorn's horn."
Now, I remember viewing this page a month or two ago and not seeing this particular paragraph in front, and since Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, take this with a grain of salt.
Winged unicorn seems to be an acceptable term to mostly everyone, even those who use one of the more concise names. In terms of its general-ness and generic-ness, this is probably one of the best options.
This is basically just the other way of saying “winged unicorn”, and by the looks of a Google search, it’s far less popular. Here’s a relevant source.
Here it is--the most popular name for the princesses among the FiM fandom. But is it accurate? Whatever it is, it is probably the most ambiguous name on the list. It deserves to be examined in both of its meanings.
Horn of a unicorn
The earliest recorded usage of “alicorn” as referring to a unicorn’s horn dates back to 1930, in Odell Shepard’s The Lore of the Unicorn. Its latest recorded usage was in 2010 in The Sorcerer’s Companion: A Guide to the World of Harry Potter. This means that this particularly definition has been in use the earliest (now classified as historical) but is still in use today.
Tvtropes describes the meaning as having originated from the portmanteau of a li and corne (meaning “secured horn”), but seems to imply that it arose from a misinterpretation of the portmanteau that forms the word’s other meaning. Wiktionary provides more than enough evidence to contradict this, not only in that it describes “alicorn” as stemming from Italian alicorno, but also in the fact that the citations of this meaning vastly predate those of the other.
Another differing view of how this meaning emerged comes from Rich’s Pegopedia. In this, Rich states the following: “. . . the ancient writers used the word to denote the actual horn of the Unicorn which purports to have magical healing powers when the tip is dipped into a body of water. In this respect the term alicorn may find [its] roots in the Latin words alima meaning ‘of the sea’ or alere meaning ‘to nourish’ or even alius meaning ‘other source or knowledge’ and, of course, cornu.”
This gives us three possible ways in which “alicorn” may have arose to this meaning, and there may be more, as well as it may be impossible to determine which one is correct. (For the record, though, I have found no other sources describing a li to mean “secured”, even in French. I am tempted to call Tvtropes’s description of this particular meaning utter rubbish.)
Let’s move on to the other meaning now.
The earliest recorded usage of “alicorn” as referring to a winged unicorn dates back to 1984, in Piers Anthony’s Bearing an Hourglass. Its latest recorded usage was in 2011 by Sabrina “Sibsy” Alberghetti in the DeviantArt note “sorry for bothering you again”.
Where did this meaning come from? Well, if Tvtropes is to be believed, it comes from the portmanteau of the French words aile and corne (meaning “wing” and “horn” respectively), though other sources believe this to be a mistake. Rich describes the term as having arisen from the Latin words ala and cornus (also meaning “wing” and “horn”), which is interestingly exactly what “spcpost” writes as a suggested alternative, only spcpost keeps the second “a” in the transition from “ala” to “alicorn”.
Which brings us to one of the word’s alternate spellings…
The suggestion from spcpost aside, I have something very interesting to report about this. If this comment from “Kay S.” is to be believed, then “alacorn” is actually the original term used to call a winged unicorn.
“Nope - ‘alacorns’ meaning ‘wing-horns’ was derived from ‘alate unicorns’ by a friend of mine by the name of Charlie Luce who didn't particularly care for ‘pegacorn’, the most common alternate at the time. This back in the days of original D&D before either AD&D or, I believe, Xanth. As it filled a lack, the term was adopted by a lot of people, despite the medieval term of the same sound but different derivation and slightly different spelling.”
If it is true that “alacorn” arose before the days of Xanth (the series of books written by Piers Anthony, including Bearing an Hourglass which supposedly coined the term “alicorn” with this meaning), then Charlie Luce is the one who truly coined the word with its meaning, with a different derivation and spelling to boot.
So why is this spelling not more widely known? That is a question I will look into later. For now, let’s take a look at the other spelling of “alicorn”.
I discovered this spelling only through a comment made by Kate Frizzell: “Another ‘proper’ name for a winged unicorn is allicorn (not alicorn, which is the horn itself) or just ‘winged unicorn’.”
At first, I thought this was just a spelling made up in order to differentiate the word from the “unicorn-horn” meaning, as every time I searched for it just brought up a username of somebody. However, after finding this…there still isn’t a direct explanation behind the extra “l”.
The term that the writers of Friendship is Magic have apparently used up until recently, “Pegacorn’s” earliest recorded usage dates back to 1993, ironically in the response to “Zoomorphic Mythics” that I quoted in the “Alacorn” section. Its latest recorded usage was in 2012 in Lauren Davis’s article, “GlaDOS reads her letter to Princess Celestia”.
This name seems to be commonly cited as the alternative to “winged unicorn” over the other alternatives. I guess Kay S. was correct when he said “Pegacorn” was the most popular alternative at the time. That would also mean, his comment holding true, that “Pegacorn” is the first word to ever call a winged unicorn such, since it predates “alacorn”, which supposedly predates even Xanth, which gave rise to “alicorn”.
The earliest recorded usage of “unipeg” dates back to 1997, in a response to “Patricia C. Wrede books”. Its latest recorded usage was in 2011 in Mercedes Burgos-Diaz’s Meenah, the Mystical Princess of Zantel. It’s one of the later terms to be jotted down into Wiktionary’s record book. There’s not much else notable about it otherwise. It’s still in use, by the looks of it.
The earliest recorded usage of “unisus” dates back to 1993, in Michael John II Wybo’s “Unique Unicorns”. Its latest “official” recorded usage was in 2010 in K. E. Biggs’s The Dawn of Hope.
One of the least-heard-of names for a winged unicorn (as far as I’ve heard), the earliest recorded usage of “cerapter” dates back to about 1998, in Richard D. Bellacera’s “Rich’s Pegopedia”. Its latest recorded usage was in 2002 in Erin Stevenson O’Connor’s “Kirin Cerapter”. It is also mentioned on the Tvtropes page.
Unlike the other names, which tend to mix together “unicorn” and “Pegasus”, this word is completely original, stemming from the Greek words ceros and ptera (meaning “horn” and “wing” respectively).
It’s pretty lately entered into Wiktionary’s record book and early to drop off. It doesn’t even have its own definition entered in the database. Is it no longer in use, or is it just unpopular?
There's no Wiktionary entry for this one. I got it from “nixieptangie’s” comment that “a Unicorn with wings is called a Pterippus.” Upon looking the word up, it would seem it is actually the name given to winged horses in general, no horns attached, back when “Pegasus” was just the name of an individual. Obviously, the name is notwithstanding here, although I have noticed a few other people mistaking it for the name of a winged unicorn.
As a source, this is pretty bad, but as long as people have taken it to mean a winged unicorn, even mistakenly, it deserves a spot on this list.
Speaking of obscure names, a commentator on the above source by the name of “rosemoonfeather” (click on “2 comments” at the bottom left corner of nixieptangie’s box) gives yet another name for a winged unicorn. That name is…
“Quill for the winged side. Corn, Alicorn being the horn,” according to rosemoonfeather.
I don’t know what else to say.
The term the wiki currently uses due to Hasbro using it on Facebook, “Pegasus unicorn” may be the closest we get to an official name for the princesses. I haven’t seen it used much elsewhere.
The reverse way of saying “Pegasus unicorn”, though to be fair, it does seem to predate it.
So, all in all, there are fourteen different names for a winged unicorn. Arranged by the date they were first recorded, they would go:
- Pegasos Aithiopikos – 1 A.D.
- Winged unicorn – no set date; presumably has existed as long as the concept has
- Horned Pegasus – same as “winged unicorn”
- Alicorn – 1984, in Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, though it’s speculated that it’s been in use earlier
- Pegacorn – 1993, though it’s written that it’s been in use earlier
- Alacorn – 1993, though it’s written that it’s been in use earlier
- Unisus - 1993
- Unipeg - 1997
- Cerapter - 1998
- Allicorn - 2006
- Unicorn Pegasus - 2007
- Pterippus - 2007
- Aquillacorn – 2009, though it’s written to have been known for many years
- Pegasus unicorn - 2011
Among the meanings and possible derivations of “alicorn”, there are eight possibilities:
- Alicorn – from a li corne (I’m not even sure of the language, but meaning “secured horn”), the horn of a unicorn.
- Alicorn – from Italian alicorno, the horn of a unicorn.
- Alicorn – from Latin alima (“of the sea”), alere (“to nourish”), or alius (“other source or knowledge”) with cornus (“horn”), the horn of a unicorn.
- Earliest recording in 1930 and still ongoing.
- Alicorn – from French aile corne (“wing horn”), a winged unicorn.
- Alicorn – from Latin ala cornus (“wing horn”), a winged unicorn.
- Earliest recording in 1984 and still ongoing.
- Alacorn – from Latin “alate unicorn”, a winged unicorn.
- Alacorn – from Latin ala cornus (“wing horn”), a winged unicorn.
- Earliest recording in 1993.
- Allicorn – a winged unicorn.
- Earliest recording in 2006.
Given all these names, it would seem to me that there really is no “true” word to call these creatures. All of these words are made up in some way or another (with the exceptions of “Pegasos Aithiopikos” and “Pterippus”, which seem to stem from legends/cultures that are far removed from us now), so as the answerer here says, it’s all a matter of which name one likes best. Only the names with two words in them, such as “winged unicorn”, seem to generalize all aspects of the creature without debate.
All in all, I think we’re best off going with the term Hasbro uses.
Choosing a “correct” term
However, this doesn’t fly with some people. They want a concise, single-word name to call winged unicorns that could be called appropriate in all situations. For this purpose, I have decided to begin a process of elimination of all these names so that we can find out which is the “best”. For starters, let’s get rid of all the names that have more than one word in them. We’re left with:
Next, as “pterippus” is actually the word for a simple winged horse, we can knock that one off due to its inaccuracy.
To narrow the names down further, let’s turn to what Rich says.
“Generally it is not appropriate to compound Greek & Latin words together, but if it becomes accepted into the general language it is adopted, no matter the form.”
Now, I agree with Rich that mixing two words from different languages is inappropriate. This, of course, refers to the Greek name “Pegasus” and the Latin word “unicorn”, so the numerous combinations of these words are, as Erin Stevenson O’Connor ever so lightly puts it, “bastardizations”. So if we’re going to find out which name is the “best”, these various portmanteaus must be cast aside. We must also eliminate “aquillacorn”, as it happens to be a portmanteau of the English word “quill” and the Latin word cornus or French word corne or some other word in some other language.
Now we’re left only with “cerapter” and the various iterations of “alicorn”. The next step would be to pick apart the iterations of “alicorn” and see which of them is correct.
As I mentioned earlier in its own section, “allicorn” is a bit on the iffy side. There’s not really any backup for it being spelled that way other than simply for the purpose of differentiation. Sorry, Kate Fizzell, but I don’t think your spelling is widespread or explainable enough to warrant serious consideration. I’m glad that you’re trying to differentiate the spelling based on its meanings, though.
Now we’ve reached the nebulous conflict between “alacorn” and “alicorn”. If we’re to believe what Kay S. has written, then “alacorn” is the original iteration, created by Charlie Luce. Piers Anthony is the one apparently credited with coining “alicorn” later, in the same spelling as the word describing the unicorn horn. It is worth noting, however, that Anthony’s Xanth series also uses “PegaCorn” and “UniPeg” as names, seemingly as a gag that pokes fun at all the different names the creature has gotten. In addition, the fact that Nathan C. Tresch writes that “there are sources from earlier than  which imply that [Anthony did] not [coin the use of Alicorn as a flying unicorn]” seems to support Kay’s claim.
Here is my hypothesis: the term “alacorn” was indeed started by Charlie Luce back in the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, before Xanth. (Since Kay said “Pegacorn” was the most popular alternative at the time, it stands to reason that other alternatives, such as “unipeg” and “unisus”, also existed at this time, putting their debut dates far behind what is recorded in Wiktionary, but this is beside the point.) He had a completely original derivation for it, “alate unicorn” (“alate” meaning “having a wing-like expansion”, Latin), which still creates solid grounding for it, coming from the same root of ala as mentioned by spcpost. The word was accordingly adopted as it “filled a lack”. The problem arose from the fact that it sounded just like “alicorn”, and as Wiktionary tells it, “a term already associated with unicorns and reinterpreted”. People who were ignorant of Luce’s spelling assumed the word was just that—“alicorn”—and spelled it as such. This led to the rise of “alicorn” as referring to a winged unicorn (although the French aile-corne theory lends some objection to this explanation); a rise based on a mistaken idea. Whether or not Piers Anthony got the term this way is unknown. (Update: Apparently not. According to newly-added info on the wiktionary page, he got it from an ad that had a winged unicorn statue in it.)
So while this may boil down to my own theory and personal preference, it is my belief that “alacorn” is the “correct” way of calling a winged unicorn as opposed to “alicorn”, which would find less confusion if it stayed as the definition of unicorn-horn material. They may sound the same, but spelling them differently makes them at least a little less ambiguous.
Now only two names remain: “alacorn” and “cerapter”. Both are derived from their own languages, both describe the creature as well as they can, and neither can be considered more “correct” than the other. Choosing one over the other, it would seem, is once again a matter of personal preference.
In my personal preference…
Though it may pain me to rebuke “alacorn”, as I do hold it highly as the “original” of appropriate names, it would be far less confusing if it wasn’t used, despite its distinguished spelling. So that means, in conclusion, the “best” word to concisely describe the winged unicorn race would be…
It may be new, but it may be just what maniacs like myself have invented for the very purpose of settling this long-winded debate. “Cerapter” is what I would call the most appropriate of all the terms, “Alacorn” notwithstanding and without resorting to the double-worded names like “Pegasus unicorn”.
This has been my collection of thoughts and research. Thank you for reading.
Something new from the Tvtropes page (or perhaps I just missed it the first time) is this note:
"'Alicorn' was also historically (in the 17th century) occasionally used to mean a mythical, heraldic animal, resembling a bull with wavy horns."
If this is true--and I am not pinning my hopes on it, given the reliability of the page thus far--then this would answer the question as to what kind of creature the ancient texts refer to, as brought up by Nathan C. Tresch. In short...
We got the wrong creature.
Will this affect anything? Doubtful, but there it is.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Meghan McCarthy at New York ComicCon 2012 My Little Pony panel (2012-08-12).
- ↑ Alicorn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2013 January 18.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Winged unicorn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2013 January 15.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Citations:alicorn – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Winged Unicorn - Television Tropes & Idioms. Retrieved on 2013 January 18.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 alicorn - Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 18.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Rich’s Pegopedia. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 David (2011-12-18). Does pegasus the flying horse ever have a horn? – Yahoo! UK & Ireland Answers. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Greywolf (6/12/93). Zoomorphic Mythics – Google Groups. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Purefurret (Apr 27, 2012). etymology - What to call a winged unicorn? - Science Fiction and Fantasy. Retrieved on 2013 January 18.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Erin Stevenson O’Connor (November 2002). Kirin Ceraptor, Erin Stevenson O’Connor, SciFi Fantasy Art. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Citations:pegacorn – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ Clinton K. (10/8/2008). Unicorn + Pegasus = ???—San Francisco—Yelp. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Citations:unipeg – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 15.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Citations:unisus – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 15.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Citations:cerapter – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ cerapter – Wiktionary. Retrieved on 2013 January 19.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Sheepingly needs no handy men only hugs (June 21st, 2007). If a unicorn is a horse with a horn, and a pegasus is a horse with wings, what is the name of a horse with a horn and wings? Please don't say pegacorn or unisus. I know there's an actual term for it.. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ Vampasaurus. Vamp’s art challenge! - My Little Pony Arena Forums. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ tuneful87. Is anyone planning to make customs of the new characters? – My Little Pony Arena Forums. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ bestinthewest. Pony Mysteries. – My Little Pony Arena Forums. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ saevitia. New unipeg toy pic? – My Little Pony Arena Forums. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 We know there’s a…—Facebook (May 19, 2011). Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Are a Winged Unicorn and a Horned Pegasus the same thing (11 May 2007). Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ ETHIOPIAN PEGASI : Fantastic African Winged-Horses—Greek & Roman legend, Pegasos Aithiopikos, w/ pictures. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.
- ↑ ala-, ali-, al- + - Word Information. Retrieved on 2013 January 20.