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sap·​phic ˈsa-fik How to pronounce sapphic (audio)
capitalized : of or relating to the Greek lyric poet Sappho
: of, relating to, or consisting of a 4-line strophe made up of chiefly trochaic and dactylic feet


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: a verse having the metrical pattern of one of the first three lines of a sapphic strophe
: a sapphic strophe

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Sapphic and Greek Poet Sappho

The poet Sappho wrote poems of self-reflection but also of passion, some of it directed to the women attending the school she conducted on the Greek island of Lesbos around 600 B.C. Even though most of the poems survive only as fragments, they have been greatly admired for many centuries. They were written in an original rhythmical pattern, which has become known as sapphic verse. Later admirers, such as the Roman poets Catullus and Horace, honored her by adopting the sapphic meter for their own poetry. Because of Sappho, the island of Lesbos also gave its name to lesbianism, which writers often used to call sapphic love.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
A number of main and supporting characters are people of color, while a sapphic relationship sits at the heart of the sweeping narrative. André-naquian Wheeler, Vogue, 22 Dec. 2022 Similar to Silver Lake’s new sapphic wine bar, the Ruby Fruit, Honey’s is intended as a gathering place that can provide a more casual setting for relaxing and chatting than one-off or monthly LGBTQ events. Stephanie Breijostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2023 Families on the street are combusting as secrets, from infidelity to young sapphic love, are exposed on front lawns and crowded events. Olivia Mccormack, Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2023 Bringing together a delightfully weird Evan Rachel Wood and a downright effervescent Gina Rodriguez-LoCicero to embody the work of Miranda July, this indie-heist-apocalypse romcom is one of the sweetest sapphic love stories out there. Lindsay Lee Wallace, SELF, 20 Dec. 2022 Crush Hulu's 2022 sapphic rom-com follows an ambitious student named Paige Evans (Rowan Blanchard), who joins her high school's track team to become more acquainted with her crush, yet finds her heart racing for another teammate. Hannah Kerns, Peoplemag, 21 Feb. 2023 Still, its dreamy blood-and-ice aesthetic and bristling sapphic energy will seduce connoisseurs of LGBTQ+ genre fare, while Paramount has already secured global distribution rights outside Canada. Guy Lodge, Variety, 23 Jan. 2023 Tessa Thompson’s drunken, badass and unapologetically sapphic Valkyrie; Jeff Goldblum’s guylinered Grandmaster; and a pile of wisecracking rocks with a New Zealand accent. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 5 July 2022 Written and directed by the Wachowskis, Bound is an erotic thriller starring Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as girlfriends, and Pantoliano as the mafia money-laundering dud standing between them and sapphic happiness. Vulture, 15 June 2022 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1501, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sapphic was in 1501

Dictionary Entries Near sapphic

Cite this Entry

“Sapphic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2023.

Medical Definition


adjective or noun
sap·​phic ˈsaf-ik How to pronounce sapphic (audio)
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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