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sylph

[silf]
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noun
  1. a slender, graceful woman or girl.
  2. (in folklore) one of a race of supernatural beings supposed to inhabit the air.

Origin of sylph

1650–60; < New Latin sylphēs (plural), coined by Paracelsus; apparently blend of sylva (variant spelling of Latin silva forest) and Greek nýmphē nymph
Related formssylph·ic, adjectivesylph·like, adjective

Synonyms

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2. Sylph, salamander, undine ( nymph ), gnome were imaginary beings inhabiting the four elements once believed to make up the physical world. All except the gnomes were female. Sylphs dwelt in the air and were light, dainty, and airy beings. Salamanders dwelt in fire: “a salamander that … lives in the midst of flames” (Addison). Undines were water spirits: By marrying a man, an undine could acquire a mortal soul. (They were also called nymphs, though nymphs were ordinarily minor divinities of nature who dwelt in woods, hills, and meadows as well as in waters.) Gnomes were little old men or dwarfs, dwelling in the earth: ugly enough to be king of the gnomes.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for sylphic

sylph

noun
  1. a slender graceful girl or young woman
  2. any of a class of imaginary beings assumed to inhabit the air
Derived Formssylphlike, rare sylphic, sylphish or sylphy, adjective

Word Origin

C17: from New Latin sylphus, probably coined from Latin silva wood + Greek numphē nymph
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

Word Origin and History for sylphic

sylph

n.

1650s, from Modern Latin sylphes (plural), coined 16c. by Paracelsus (1493-1541), originally referring to any race of spirits inhabiting the air, described as being mortal but lacking a soul. Paracelsus' word seems to be an arbitrary coinage, but perhaps it holds a suggestion of Latin sylva and Greek nymph. The meaning "slender, graceful girl" first recorded 1838, on the notion of "light, airy movements." Silphid (1670s) are the younger or smaller variety, from French sylphide (1670s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper