Simple Definition of sylph
: a thin and graceful woman or girl
Full Definition of sylph
1 : an elemental being in the theory of Paracelsus that inhabits air
2 : a slender graceful woman or girl
Did You Know?
Paracelsus was a man with a vivid imagination. He concocted an elaborate theory of ruling "elemental spirits": gnomes controlled the earth, salamanders fire, undines water, and sylphs (graceful beings whose name in English is from New Latin sylphus) the air. You would hardly believe this 16th-century German-Swiss physician had his feet on the ground, but those fantastic ideas were balanced with an impressive array of solid medical discoveries. In fact, many of his scientific contributions are still highly respected, but his sylph idea has long since been discounted as fairy-tale fantasy. The creatures remain only as romantic figures of literature, art, and ballet, where diaphanous woodland sylphs are often depicted enchanting unwary males.
Origin of sylph
New Latin sylphus
First Known Use: 1657
Learn More about sylph
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about "sylph"
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up sylph? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).