sphinx

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See also: Sphinx

English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

The great Sphinx of Giza

From Middle English Spynx, from Latin Sphinx, from Ancient Greek Σφίγξ (Sphínx). Perhaps from σφίγγω (sphingo, to squeeze, to strangle), or from Egyptian Szp-'nx (shesp-ankh) 'divine image', literally, 'living image'.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

sphinx (plural sphinxes or sphinges)

  1. (mythology) A creature with the head of a person and the body of an animal (commonly a lion).
    • Shelley
      Sculptured on alabaster obelisk, / Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphinx []
  2. A person who keeps his/her thoughts and intentions secret; an enigmatic person.
  3. Cynocephalus sphinx, a kind of baboon.
  4. A sphinx moth.
  5. (rare) A sphincter.
    • 1982, Lawrence Durrell, Constance, Faber & Faber 2004 (Avignon Quintet), p. 836:
      Constance said boastfully, ‘My sphinxes are strong and in good repair. I order you to come.’

Synonyms[edit]

  • (person who keeps his/her thoughts and intentions secret): enigma

Derived terms[edit]

Hyponyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

Verb[edit]

sphinx (third-person singular simple present sphinxes, present participle sphinxing, simple past and past participle sphinxed)

  1. To decorate with sphinxes
    a marble sphinxed chimney-piece
  2. To adopt the posture of the Sphinx.
    A hot lion with a very bloated stomach ... will adopt either a sphinxed or a squatting posture which takes some of the weight off its belly.
    Several animals maintained either a crouched ... or a sphinxing posture (abdomen on the floor)
  3. To be inscrutable, often through silence
    (1900) The sphinxèd riddle of the Universe / Nature's unsolved enigma, who may prove?
    (1933) Janet Gaynor, so they tell, is sphinxing it and has gone into a Retirement, with "Nothing to Say — Please Go Away" written on the doormat.
    (1934) The men of science will climb grassy hillsides of [Easter] island to peer at hundreds of great stone faces that have so far out-sphinxed the sphinx in determined silence about the past.
    (1954) "What are you two sphinxing about?" said Jessica, but her husband said Never mind
    (1964) What with Fisher whole-hogging on one side, and K. of K. sphinxing on the other, Churchill had his work cut out to get any sort of agreement at all.
  4. To make one guess at the unknowable
    (1933) Perhaps Nature is sphinxing us on purpose. Whatever her objects may be, perhaps she gets her work done better when she appeals to our gambling instincts. If you knew for certain exactly how your marriage was going to turn out ...
  5. To befuddle
    (2010) She swiveled and sphinxed Giles. 'And you, I suppose you've never been here either?' Giles squirmed. 'Well, I – that is, Miss Wh—, I mean, Miss Taylor, I –' He looked to me for rescue.
  6. For the feminine to co-opt, dominate, or devour the masculine, especially from a paranoid fear of this happening
    (1986) modernism's fears of being sphinxed by a feminized mass culture

French[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowed from Latin sphinx.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

sphinx m (plural sphinx)

  1. sphinx

Latin[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

sphinx f (genitive sphingis); third declension

  1. sphinx

Inflection[edit]

Third declension.

Number Singular Plural
nominative sphinx sphingēs
genitive sphingis sphingum
dative sphingī sphingibus
accusative sphingem sphingēs
ablative sphinge sphingibus
vocative sphinx sphingēs