sylph

[silf]
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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

Synonyms for sylph

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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


Examples from the Web for sylphlike

Historical Examples of sylphlike

  • The young women have none of the sylphlike appearance of the Mandingoes or Soosoos.

    Captain Canot

    Brantz Mayer

  • For at this writing in those parts the slender, sylphlike string-bean is not playing a minor part, as with us.

    Europe Revised

    Irvin S. Cobb

  • Her vest and train of white satin did not conceal her sylphlike form and delicate feet.

    Sketches

    Benjamin Disraeli

  • I had red cheeks and was ashamed of them, and my stocky, square-shouldered figure was anything but sylphlike.

  • It is one of the commonest delusions among fat men that horseback riding will bring them down and make them sylphlike and willowy.

    Cobb's Anatomy

    Irvin S. Cobb


British Dictionary definitions for sylphlike

sylph

noun
  1. a slender graceful girl or young woman
  2. any of a class of imaginary beings assumed to inhabit the air
Derived Formssylphlike, rare sylphic, sylphish or sylphy, adjective

Word Origin for sylph

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 sylphlike

sylph

n.

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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper