noun \ˈsfiŋ(k)s\

in ancient Greek and Egyptian stories : a creature with the body of a lion and the head of a person; also : something (such as a statue) in the shape of a sphinx

plural sphinx·es or sphin·ges \ˈsfin-ˌjēz\

Full Definition of SPHINX

a capitalized :  a winged female monster in Greek mythology having a woman's head and a lion's body and noted for killing anyone unable to answer its riddle
b :  an enigmatic or mysterious person <she is a sphinx whose features hold a blank fascination>
:  an ancient Egyptian image in the form of a recumbent lion having a man's head, a ram's head, or a hawk's head
sphinx·like \-ˌlīk\ adjective

Examples of SPHINX

  1. a statue of the Sphinx

Origin of SPHINX

Latin, from Greek Sphinx, Sphix
First Known Use: 15th century


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

The Great Sphinx at Giza, 4th dynasty—E. Streichan/Shostal Associates

Mythological creature with a lion's body and a human's head. It figures prominently in Egyptian and Greek art and legend. The winged sphinx of Thebes was said to have terrorized people by demanding the answer to a riddle taught to her by the Muses—What is it that has one voice and yet becomes successively four-footed, then two-footed, then three-footed?—and devoured every person who answered incorrectly. When Oedipus correctly answered “man”—who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two feet when grown, and leans on a staff in old age—the sphinx killed herself. The earliest and most famous example in art is the Great Sphinx at Giza in Egypt, built c. 2500 BC. The sphinx appeared in the Greek world c. 1600 BC and in Mesopotamia c. 1500 BC.


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