Scyl·​la | \ ˈsi-lə How to pronounce Scylla (audio) \

Definition of Scylla

: a nymph changed into a monster in Greek mythology who terrorizes mariners in the Strait of Messina
between Scylla and Charybdis
: between two equally hazardous alternatives

Did You Know?

The Strait of Messina is the narrow passage between the island of Sicily and the "toe" of Italy's "boot". In Greek mythology, two monsters hovered on either side of the strait. Scylla, a female monster with six snake-like heads, each with pointed teeth, barked like a dog from the rocks on the Italian side. Charybdis, on the Sicilian side, caused a whirlpool by swallowing the waters of the sea three times a day. When Odysseus attempted to sail between them, he encountered disaster on both sides. Being caught between Scylla and Charybdis is a lot like being between a rock and a hard place.

First Known Use of Scylla

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Scylla

Latin, from Greek Skyllē

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Scylla

Time Traveler for Scylla

Time Traveler

The first known use of Scylla was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for Scylla

Cite this Entry

“Scylla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Comments on Scylla

What made you want to look up Scylla? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!