dry·​ad ˈdrī-əd How to pronounce dryad (audio)
plural dryads
: a spirit that lives in the forest : wood nymph, fairy
For the Greek all of nature was instinct with life … Every tree had its dryad, and the oak was sacred to Zeus, the olive to Athene, the bay to Apollo, the myrtle to Aphrodite, the poplar to Heracles.World Religions
… a sunrise stroll with a dryad in a dew-drenched forest …Edith Wharton

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Dryad and Greek Mythology

The term dryad comes from the Greek word for "oak tree". As the Greeks saw it, every tree (not only oaks) had a spirit. The best known of the dryads was Daphne. The beautiful daughter of a river god, she was desired by the god Apollo; as he was about to capture her, she prayed to her father to save her, and he transformed her into a laurel tree. In her honor, Apollo commanded that the poet who won the highest prize every year be crowned with a laurel wreath. The Greeks' respect for trees unfortunately failed to keep Greece's forests from shrinking greatly over the centuries, and those that remain produce little wood of good quality.

Examples of dryad in a Sentence

dryads were said to live within trees, their lives ending when the life of the tree ended
Recent Examples on the Web Having regained his health, Geralt heads off with Jaskier and the dryad Milva to find Ciri, following a little skirmish with some power-mad guards. Nick Romano, EW.com, 27 July 2023 Merlin and Cosmo are both in their 30s, with dark curly hair and similarly rangy builds, though Merlin’s face is more delicate, as though a distant ancestor might have been part elf or dryad. Jennifer Kahn, New York Times, 8 June 2023 Breaking off a piece of the mushroom, Sheldrake pointed out its pores and scaly top, then tentatively identified it as dryad saddle. Jennifer Kahn, New York Times, 8 June 2023 Players will start out controlling a centaur with a whip as their dungeon manager, but eventually a dryad enchantress and monkey engineer can also be unlocked, with each master necessitating various styles of gameplay. Jason Bennett, Arkansas Online, 24 May 2021 The taste is close to water, only water as if just rained down and sipped from a blossom, with a delicate, attenuated sweetness: what a dryad might live on. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, 22 Feb. 2018 Isaac, the dryad Lena Greenwood, and the fire-spider Smudge lead the efforts to uncover the mystery. John Booth, WIRED, 7 Aug. 2012

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dryad.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin dryad-, dryas, from Greek, from drys tree — more at tree entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dryad was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near dryad

Cite this Entry

“Dryad.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dryad. Accessed 17 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


dry·​ad ˈdrī-əd How to pronounce dryad (audio)
: a nymph living in woods
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