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[sahy-ruh n] /ˈsaɪ rən/
Classical Mythology. one of several sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing.
a seductively beautiful or charming woman, especially one who beguiles men:
a siren of the silver screen.
an acoustical instrument for producing musical tones, consisting essentially of a disk pierced with holes arranged equidistantly in a circle, rotated over a jet or stream of compressed air, steam, or the like, so that the stream is alternately interrupted and allowed to pass.
an implement of this kind used as a whistle, fog signal, or warning device.
any of several aquatic, eellike salamanders of the family Sirenidae, having permanent external gills, small forelimbs, and no posterior limbs.
of or like a siren.
seductive or tempting, especially dangerously or harmfully:
the siren call of adventure.
verb (used without object)
to go with the siren sounding, as a fire engine.
verb (used with object)
to allure in the manner of a siren.
Origin of siren
1300-50; Middle English sereyn < Old French sereine < Late Latin Sīrēna, Latin Sīrēn < Greek Seirḗn
Related forms
sirenlike, adjective
2. seductress, temptress, vamp. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for sirens
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Two are the ways after parting from the sirens, says Circe: "I shall tell thee of both."

    Homer's Odyssey Denton J. Snider
  • sirens: sea-nymphs who enticed sailors into their power by their singing, and then devoured them.

    Tom Brown at Rugby Thomas Hughes
  • sirens and Dulcineas of all descriptions were ever apt to gather round monasteries.

    Old and New London Walter Thornbury
  • Such were the sirens who would have compassed the destruction of Odysseus.

    A Book of Myths Jean Lang
  • The sirens of the invisible night no longer whispered to him.

    Overland Red Henry Herbert Knibbs
British Dictionary definitions for sirens


a device for emitting a loud wailing sound, esp as a warning or signal, typically consisting of a rotating perforated metal drum through which air or steam is passed under pressure
(sometimes capital) (Greek myth) one of several sea nymphs whose seductive singing was believed to lure sailors to destruction on the rocks the nymphs inhabited
  1. a woman considered to be dangerously alluring or seductive
  2. (as modifier): her siren charms
any aquatic eel-like salamander of the North American family Sirenidae, having external gills, no hind limbs, and reduced forelimbs
Word Origin
C14: from Old French sereine, from Latin sīrēn, from Greek seirēn
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 sirens



mid-14c., "sea nymph who by her singing lures sailors to their destruction," from Old French sereine (12c., Modern French sirène) and directly from Latin Siren (Late Latin Sirena), from Greek Seiren ["Odyssey," xii.39 ff.], one of the Seirenes, mythical sisters who enticed sailors to their deaths with their songs, also in Greek "a deceitful woman," perhaps literally "binder, entangler," from seira "cord, rope."

Meaning "device that makes a warning sound" (on an ambulance, etc.) first recorded 1879, in reference to steamboats, perhaps from similar use of the French word. Figurative sense of "one who sings sweetly and charms" is recorded from 1580s. The classical descriptions of them were mangled in medieval translations and glosses, resulting in odd notions of what they looked like.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sirens in Culture

Sirens definition

In classical mythology, evil creatures who lived on a rocky island, singing in beautiful voices in an effort to lure sailors to shipwreck and death. Odysseus ordered his crew to plug their ears to escape the Sirens' fatal song.

Note: Figuratively, a “siren” is a beautiful or tempting woman; a “siren song” is any irresistible distraction.
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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