An Elephant Never Forgets – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone that you'll remember their actions or what they say to you? You can use "an elephant never forgets" to remind them that you have a long memory and you won’t forget what they did to you. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression "an elephant never forgets" means that people have long memories and won't forget the transgressions you make against them in life. The elephant is a sacred animal in India and is highly regarded. The animals' handlers state that elephants carry their memories through their lives, and they never forget how people treat them.

So, by using the expression, you're telling someone that you won't forget their behavior towards you or what you say to them. It reminds them that human beings have a long memory, and we shape our behavior around our experiences. If we have a good or bad experience with a person, we are likely to remember it for a long time, just like an elephant.

The saying has suit negative and positive connotations. For instance, if someone does you wrong, you could use the expression to let them know that you'll remember what they did, and one day you might take revenge. You could also use it after thanking someone for their help to let them know you won't forget their assistance.

Example Usage

“Okay, if you think it’s alright to treat me like that, that’s fine. An elephant never forgets, and neither do I.”

“So, you thought I would forget your birthday this year. Well, an elephant never forgets, so happy birthday, my friend.”

“This is not the time to tell me you forgot the security code. What was all that nonsense about ‘an elephant never forgets?’”

“She might think that it was nothing and everything will blow over. But an elephant never forgets, and I’ll be waiting in the shadows for the right time to take my revenge.”

“An elephant never forgets, Mike. Remember that. I won’t forget what you did here today, so you had better watch your back out there on the streets.”

“My mom told me that an elephant never forgets, but a kind-hearted person always forgives.”


This origin of “an elephant never forgets” comes from an earlier Arabic saying, “A camel never forgets an injury.” The earliest rendition of the phrase in print comes from the Wagga Wagga Advertiser newspaper, published in February 1883, where it appears as follows.

“And depend upon it such ill-used men like the Delhi elephant, never forget the sting, and seize the first available opportunity for bespattering the reporters with mud.”

Phrases Similar to An Elephant Never Forgets

  • Camels never forget an injury.

Phrases Opposite to An Elephant Never Forgets

  • I’m a scatterbrain.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • An elephant never forgets.

Ways People May Say An Elephant Never Forgets Incorrectly

The saying doesn’t refer to elephants. Elephants supposedly have long memories, but humans have even longer ones. When people use the phrase, they are referring to themselves as the elephant and that they won’t forget your transgressions against them.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase An Elephant Never Forgets

You can use the saying “an elephant never forgets” when you’re trying to tell someone that you have a long memory and you won’t forget how they treat you. When people use the phrase, they refer to themselves as having a long memory, and they won’t forget what you did to them.

The phrase suits social and professional use. In most instances, you’ll be using the expression when people do you wrong, but it does have a positive connotation in some circumstances. You could use it to tell a colleague at work that you’ll remember how they didn’t stick up for you with management. Or you could use it with friends to tell them that you won’t forget their birthday.

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