People have plenty of ideas, but nobody knows. Vasmer rejects the usual (in his day) derivation from the verb sloniti as a folk etymology and says it might be from Turkic a(r)slan ‘lion’; Jakobson compares Tocharian kloŋ; Machek in his Czech etymological dictionary says it’s probably from *slop-n < *solopont, related to the Greek word [ἐλεφᾱς, elephas].
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