Definition of sylph
1 : an elemental being in the theory of Paracelsus that inhabits air
2 : a slender graceful woman or girl
sylphlikeplay \ˈsil-ˌflīk\ adjective
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Recent Examples of sylph from the Web
Prince the raunchy sylph eventually became a Jehovah’s Witness who would bowdlerize his more explicit material in concert.
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.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sylph'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
Origin and Etymology of sylph
New Latin sylphus
First Known Use: 1657See Words from the same year
SYLPH Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of sylph for English Language Learners
: a thin and graceful woman or girl
Learn More about sylph
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sylph
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