plural sphinxes or sphinges ˈsfin-ˌjēz How to pronounce sphinx (audio)
capitalized : a winged female monster in Greek mythology having a woman's head and a lion's body and noted for killing anyone unable to answer its riddle
: an enigmatic or mysterious person
she is a sphinx whose features hold a blank fascination
: an ancient Egyptian image in the form of a recumbent lion having a man's head, a ram's head, or a hawk's head
sphinxlike adjective

Examples of sphinx in a Sentence

a statue of the Sphinx
Recent Examples on the Web Eight sphinxes and eight Hathoric columns will be carved with images that are meaningful to Halsey, including personal heroes, family, friends, community activists and organizers. Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2024 Bing settled into the sphinx, ears pricked up, tail tucked under his rear. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 6 May 2024 The question sounds like the set-up to a bad joke or a riddle from a sphinx. Paul Smaglik, Discover Magazine, 11 Apr. 2024 Other theories to explain the curse include worker deaths during construction, the hotel’s 2008 installation of a Titanic exhibit and the fact that the sphinx has no pair (Egyptian mythology may hold that a singular sphinx could leave its pyramid exposed). Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 7 Feb. 2024 Though Napoleon’s troops were accused of defacing the sphinx nothing of the kind ever occurred. Zenger News, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Abdel Ghaffar says her favorite way to see the pyramids, temples, and giant sphinx, however, is via the traditional camel rides offered by local guides on-site. Shannon McMahon, Condé Nast Traveler, 12 Dec. 2023 But under Netflix’s ownership, the Egyptian’s exterior and interior, ornately adorned with hieroglyphics and sphinxes, have been restored, the theater’s lighting and sound system have been upgraded and the theater has been seismically retrofitted to meet a city mandate. Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2023 That was one big point of the sugarcoated sphinx that Kara Walker installed in one of the Domino warehouses in 2014, shortly before its demolition. Curbed, 27 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sphinx.' 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, from Greek Sphinx, Sphix

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of sphinx was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near sphinx

Cite this Entry

“Sphinx.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


plural sphinxes or sphinges ˈsfin-ˌjēz How to pronounce sphinx (audio)
: an ancient Egyptian image having the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk

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