sylph

noun

1
: an elemental being in the theory of Paracelsus that inhabits air
2
: a slender graceful woman or girl
sylphlike adjective

Did you know?

Paracelsus was a man with a vivid imagination. He concocted an elaborate theory of ruling "elemental spirits": gnomes controlled the earth, salamanders fire, undines water, and sylphs (graceful beings whose name in English is from New Latin sylphus) the air. You would hardly believe this 16th-century German-Swiss physician had his feet on the ground, but those fantastic ideas were balanced with an impressive array of solid medical discoveries. In fact, many of his scientific contributions are still highly respected, but his sylph idea has long since been discounted as fairy-tale fantasy. The creatures remain only as romantic figures of literature, art, and ballet, where diaphanous woodland sylphs are often depicted enchanting unwary males.

Examples of sylph in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Louisville Ballet is redesigning the context of the ballet, but the classic story begins when a young groom is awakened on his wedding day by a kiss from a sylph. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 17 May 2022 When Cher first appeared on TV—a 25-year-old sylph cracking wise in spangly couture alongside her shorter, older, mustachioed husband—millions of people watched her every week, the kind of market share that’s basically inconceivable 51 years later. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, 4 Jan. 2022 My mother sculpted this elegant and serene sylph in the 1940s while attending the Yale School of Art. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, 8 May 2019 From afar, thanks to her class privilege and sheer force of personality, Lavinia succeeds in looking like an effortless sylph. Hannah Orenstein, Vox, 12 Sep. 2018 The war was over, the world was coming back to life, and Hollywood was enchanted by a new ideal, the otherworldly sylph as embodied by Caron and Audrey Hepburn. David Downton, HWD, 14 Mar. 2017 Halley, a tough-talking sylph with a robust scattering of tattoos and cellophane-blue hair, is practically a kid herself. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 5 Oct. 2017 The war was over, the world was coming back to life, and Hollywood was enchanted by a new ideal, the otherworldly sylph as embodied by Caron and Audrey Hepburn. Laura Jacobs, vanityfair.com, 15 Mar. 2017

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

Word History

Etymology

New Latin sylphus

First Known Use

1657, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sylph was in 1657

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Cite this Entry

“Sylph.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sylph. Accessed 13 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

sylph

noun
: a slender graceful woman or girl
sylphlike adjective

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