• synonyms


See more synonyms for sylph on Thesaurus.com
  1. a slender, graceful woman or girl.
  2. (in folklore) one of a race of supernatural beings supposed to inhabit the air.
Show More

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


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for sylph

Historical Examples

  • Meg is always moaning and groaning because she isn't a sylph!

    Stories of a Western Town

    Octave Thanet

  • He could not picture her as a sylph of one hundred and fifty pounds.

  • Her style was "sylph," and so she was gauzy and floating in all her drapery.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan

    Charles James Lever

  • The Sylph rose and sank to the first long roll of the open sea.

  • The Sylph came about, with sails trembling, and lost headway.

British Dictionary definitions for sylph


  1. a slender graceful girl or young woman
  2. any of a class of imaginary beings assumed to inhabit the air
Show More
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 sylph


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).

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper