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siren

[sahy-ruhn]
noun
  1. Classical Mythology. one of several sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing.
  2. a seductively beautiful or charming woman, especially one who beguiles men: a siren of the silver screen.
  3. 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.
  4. an implement of this kind used as a whistle, fog signal, or warning device.
  5. any of several aquatic, eellike salamanders of the family Sirenidae, having permanent external gills, small forelimbs, and no posterior limbs.
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adjective
  1. of or like a siren.
  2. seductive or tempting, especially dangerously or harmfully: the siren call of adventure.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to go with the siren sounding, as a fire engine.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to allure in the manner of a siren.
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Origin of siren

1300–50; Middle English sereyn < Old French sereine < Late Latin Sīrēna, Latin Sīrēn < Greek Seirḗn
Related formssi·ren·like, adjective

Synonyms for siren

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for sirens

whistle, signal, warning, bell, horn, beauty, temptress, charmer, vamp, enchantress, goddess, sexpot, alarm

Examples from the Web for sirens

Contemporary Examples of sirens

Historical Examples of sirens

  • Even the Sirens, like all the rest of the world, have been laid under his spells.

  • Had the Sirens only to utter this one incantation, and was every listener constrained to stay?

  • Sirens: sea-nymphs who enticed sailors into their power by their singing, and then devoured them.

    Tom Brown at Rugby

    Thomas Hughes

  • It is execrable stuff—the milk of sirens mingled with sea-water.

  • Such were the sirens who would have compassed the destruction of Odysseus.


British Dictionary definitions for sirens

siren

noun
  1. 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
  2. (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
  3. any aquatic eel-like salamander of the North American family Sirenidae, having external gills, no hind limbs, and reduced forelimbs
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Word Origin for siren

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

Word Origin and History for sirens

siren

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sirens in Culture

Sirens

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.

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Note

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