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Anglicized form of aspis, the name used in classical antiquity for a venomous snake, probably the Egyptian cobra (Naja haje). The asp was the symbol of royalty in Egypt, and its bite was used for the execution of criminals in Greco-Roman times. Cleopatra is said to have killed herself with an asp.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on asp, visit Britannica.com.