[ silf ]
See synonyms for: sylphsylphlike on

  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; from New Latin sylphēs (plural), coined by Paracelsus; apparently blend of sylva (variant spelling of Latin silva “forest”) and Greek nýmphē nymph

synonym study For sylph

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.

Other words from sylph

  • sylphic, adjective
  • sylphlike, adjective

Words Nearby sylph Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use sylph in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sylph


/ (sɪlf) /

  1. a slender graceful girl or young woman

  2. any of a class of imaginary beings assumed to inhabit the air

Origin of sylph

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

Derived forms of sylph

  • sylphlike, rare sylphic, sylphish or sylphy, adjective

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