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serpent

[sur-puh nt]
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noun
  1. a snake.
  2. a wily, treacherous, or malicious person.
  3. the Devil; Satan. Gen. 3:1–5.
  4. a firework that burns with serpentine motion or flame.
  5. an obsolete wooden wind instrument with a serpentine shape and a deep, coarse tone.Compare ophicleide.
  6. (initial capital letter) Astronomy. the constellation Serpens.
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Origin of serpent

1250–1300; Middle English (< Middle French) < Latin serpent-, stem of serpēns; see Serpens
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

snake, viper, basilisk, dragon, ophidian

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


British Dictionary definitions for serpent

serpent

noun
  1. a literary or dialect word for snake
  2. Old Testament a manifestation of Satan as a guileful tempter (Genesis 3:1–5)
  3. a sly, deceitful, or unscrupulous person
  4. an obsolete wind instrument resembling a snake in shape, the bass form of the cornett
  5. a firework that moves about with a serpentine motion when ignited
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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

Word Origin and History for serpent

n.

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

serpent in Culture

serpent

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.

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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.