noun, often capitalized
sib·​yl | \ ˈsi-bəl How to pronounce sibyl (audio) \

Definition of sibyl

1 : any of several prophetesses usually accepted as 10 in number and credited to widely separate parts of the ancient world (such as Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy)

Other Words from sibyl

sibylic or sibyllic \ sə-​ˈbi-​lik How to pronounce sibyl (audio) \ adjective
sibylline \ ˈsi-​bə-​ˌlīn How to pronounce sibyl (audio) , -​ˌlēn \ adjective

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Ancient writers refer to the existence of various women in such countries as Babylonia, Greece, Italy, and Egypt, through whom the gods regularly spoke. These sibyls were easy to confuse with the oracles, women who were likewise mouthpieces of the gods, at such sites as Apollo's temple at Delphi. The most famous sibyl was the Sibyl of Cumae in Italy, a withered crone who lived in a cave. Her prophecies were collected into twelve books, three of which survived to be consulted by the Romans in times of national emergencies. She is one of the five sibyls memorably depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Examples of sibyl in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web It was deemed a line straight to God — staggering, the voice of an enchantress, a sibyl, a siren. Washington Post, 12 May 2021 There’s the Roman emperor Augustus and a sibyl in a 1435 painting by Konrad Witz. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 20 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sibyl.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of sibyl

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sibyl

Middle English sibile, sybylle, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French sibile, from Latin sibylla, from Greek

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

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Sibuyan Sea



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Cite this Entry

“Sibyl.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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