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[nimf] /nɪmf/
one of a numerous class of lesser deities of mythology, conceived of as beautiful maidens inhabiting the sea, rivers, woods, trees, mountains, meadows, etc., and frequently mentioned as attending a superior deity.
a beautiful or graceful young woman.
a maiden.
the young of an insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.
Origin of nymph
1350-1400; Middle English nimphe < Latin nympha < Greek nýmphē bride, nymph
Related forms
nymphal, nymphean
[nim-fee-uh n] /ˈnɪm fi ən/ (Show IPA),
unnymphal, adjective
unnymphean, adjective
1. naiad, nereid, oread, dryad, hamadryad. See sylph. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for nymphs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was a day or two after I had come home from the secret place that I first really knew the nymphs.

    The House of Souls Arthur Machen
  • She said that all her guests should appear either as goblins or as nymphs.

    Historic Boyhoods Rupert Sargent Holland
  • The nymphs of the pave, who made this place their habitation, were all returned from the toils of the night.

  • It just happens that I have kept some Anthophora-cells occupied by larv or nymphs.

  • A Valkyrie comes to her and tells her that Wotan's spear is broken, and advises her to give the ring to the Rhine nymphs.

  • There are big larv and little larv; moreover, they are accompanied by nymphs.

  • The nymphs were supposed goddesses of the mountains, forests, meadows, and waters.

    The Reason Why Anonymous
  • Do you not perceive that I am already overtaken by the nymphs to whom you have mischievously exposed me?

    Phaedrus Plato
British Dictionary definitions for nymphs


(myth) a spirit of nature envisaged as a beautiful maiden
(mainly poetic) a beautiful young woman
the immature form of some insects, such as the dragonfly and mayfly, and certain arthropods. Nymphs resemble the adult, apart from having underdeveloped reproductive organs and (in the case of insects) wings, and develop into the adult without a pupal stage
Derived Forms
nymphal, nymphean (ˈnɪmfɪən) adjective
nymphlike, adjective
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin, from Greek numphē nymph; related to Latin nūbere to marry
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nymphs



late 14c., "class of semi-divine female beings," from Old French nimphe (13c.), from Latin nympha "nymph, demi-goddess; bride, mistress, young woman," from Greek nymphe "bride, young wife," later "beautiful young woman," then "semi-divine being in the form of a beautiful maiden;" related to Latin nubere "to marry, wed" (see nuptial). Sub-groups include dryads, hamadryads, naiads, nereids, and oreads. Sense in English of "young woman, girl" is attested from 1580s. Meaning "insect stage between larva and adult" is recorded from 1570s. Related: Nymphal; nymphean.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nymphs in Science
The immature form of those insects that do not pass through a pupal stage. Nymphs usually resemble the adults, but are smaller, lack fully developed wings, and are sexually immature. Compare imago, larva, pupa.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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nymphs in Culture

nymphs definition

Female spirits of classical mythology who lived in forests, bodies of water, and other places outdoors.

Note: By extension, a “nymph” is a beautiful or seductive woman.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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