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[sur-puh nt] /ˈsɜr pənt/
a snake.
a wily, treacherous, or malicious person.
the Devil; Satan. Gen. 3:1–5.
a firework that burns with serpentine motion or flame.
an obsolete wooden wind instrument with a serpentine shape and a deep, coarse tone.
Compare ophicleide.
(initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Serpens.
Origin of serpent
1250-1300; Middle English (< Middle French) < Latin serpent-, stem of serpēns; see Serpens Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for serpent
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I think you'd better get rid of that Shandy serpent; he seems ripe for any deviltry.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • In moving I had trodden on or touched the serpent with my foot, and it had bitten me just above the ankle.

    Green Mansions W. H. Hudson
  • Cursed be the serpent that bit you and had not sufficient power in its venom to kill!

    Green Mansions W. H. Hudson
  • And the woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."

  • Had she produced a serpent, I could not have been more frightened.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • But who can say that the serpent of his tribe has forgotten his wisdom?

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • But the Rector felt that he was listening to the excuses of a serpent.

British Dictionary definitions for serpent


a literary or dialect word for snake
(Old Testament) a manifestation of Satan as a guileful tempter (Genesis 3:1–5)
a sly, deceitful, or unscrupulous person
an obsolete wind instrument resembling a snake in shape, the bass form of the cornett
a firework that moves about with a serpentine motion when ignited
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin serpēns a creeping thing, from serpere to creep; related to Greek herpein to crawl
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 serpent

c.1300, "limbless reptile," also the tempter in Gen. iii:1-5, from Old French serpent, sarpent "snake, serpent" (12c.), from Latin serpentem (nominative serpens) "snake; creeping thing," also the name of a constellation, from present participle of serpere "to creep," from PIE *serp- "to crawl, creep" (cf. Sanskrit sarpati "creeps," sarpah "serpent;" Greek herpein "to creep," herpeton "serpent;" Albanian garper "serpent").

Used figuratively to express spiral or regularly sinuous, e.g. as the word for a type of musical instrument (1730). Serpent's tongue as figurative of venomous or stinging speech is from mistaken medieval notion that the serpent's tongue was its "sting." Serpent's tongue also was a name given to fossil shark's teeth (c.1600).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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serpent in Culture

serpent definition

The creature in the Book of Genesis that tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, thus committing the first act of the Fall of Man. In the New Testament, the serpent of Genesis is identified with Satan.

The 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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