(in ancient Egypt)
a figure of an imaginary creature having the head of a man or an animal and the body of a lion.
(usually initial capital letter) the colossal recumbent stone figure of this kind near the pyramids of Giza.
(initial capital letter)Classical Mythology. a monster, usually represented as having the head and breast of a woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. Seated on a rock outside of Thebes, she proposed a riddle to travelers, killing them when they answered incorrectly, as all did before Oedipus. When he answered her riddle correctly the Sphinx killed herself.
any similar monster.
a mysterious, inscrutable person or thing, especially one given to enigmatic questions or answers.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use sphinx in a sentence
Dulles, Moses recalls, sat as silent as a sphinx, and the meeting ended inconclusively.The 1964 Miss. Freedom Summer Protests Won Progress At a Bloody Price | Nicolaus Mills | June 21, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
The first cat on the catwalk (sorry, we had to) was Vengeance, a 12-week-old sphinx in an argyle sweater.
Next out was Madeline, a one-and-a-half year old sphinx in a frilly pink ballerina outfit.
sphinx cats (think Mr. Bigglesworth) are apparently more likely to tolerate clothing, as they are naturally fur-less.
Betty smiles so rarely on Mad Men that when she does it holds special importance, akin to a sphinx letting her guard down.
But his countenance still bore that sphinx-like expression which so often caused his friends to entertain vague suspicions.The Doctor of Pimlico | William Le Queux
By jove, just that moment—then I caught an expression—I say, do you know you would make a remarkable symbolic study of the sphinx?The Woman Gives | Owen Johnson
The rain falls, the mud deepens; the beautiful sphinx lies still, her eyes lost in the dull horizon.The Nabob | Alphonse Daudet
The sphinx, which men have imagined concealing herself in the cloud, seemed to mock him with a dilemma.Toilers of the Sea | Victor Hugo
A terrible sphinx propounding a terrible riddle; the riddle of the existence of Evil.Toilers of the Sea | Victor Hugo
British Dictionary definitions for sphinx (1 of 2)
any of a number of huge stone statues built by the ancient Egyptians, having the body of a lion and the head of a man
an inscrutable person
British Dictionary definitions for Sphinx (2 of 2)
Greek myth a monster with a woman's head and a lion's body. She lay outside Thebes, asking travellers a riddle and killing them when they failed to answer it. Oedipus answered the riddle and the Sphinx then killed herself
the huge statue of a sphinx near the pyramids at El Gîza in Egypt, of which the head is a carved portrait of the fourth-dynasty Pharaoh, Chephrēn
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
Cultural definitions for Sphinx (1 of 2)
In the story of Oedipus, a winged monster with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. It waylaid travelers on the roads near the city of Thebes and would kill any of them who could not answer this riddle: “What creatures walk on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” Oedipus finally gave the correct answer: human beings, who go on all fours as infants, walk upright in maturity, and in old age rely on the “third leg” of a cane.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.