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Long-tailed sylph (sense 4)


First attested in 1657. From New Latin sylphes, coined by Paracelsus in the 16th century. The coinage may derive from Latin sylvestris (of the woods) and nympha (nymph). Related to sylvan.

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  • IPA(key): /sɪlf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪlf


sylph (plural sylphs)

  1. (mythology) An invisible being of the air.
    Synonym: sylphid
  2. The elemental being of air, usually female.
  3. (by extension) A slender woman or girl, usually graceful and sometimes with the implication of sublime station over everyday people.
    • 1811, Mary Bruton, Self-Control (novel):
      Her heart fluttered with expectation—her step was buoyant with hope, and she sprung into the carriage with the lightness of a sylph.
  4. (ornithology) Any of the mainly dark green and blue hummingbirds (genus Aglaiocercus), the male of which has a long forked tail.

Related terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]


  • Beekes, Robert S. P. (2010) Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 10), with the assistance of Lucien van Beek, Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN