sylph

noun
\ ˈsilf How to pronounce sylph (audio) \

Definition of sylph

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

Other Words from sylph

sylphlike \ ˈsil-​ˌflīk How to pronounce sylph (audio) \ 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 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. David Downton, HWD, 15 Mar. 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 Prince the raunchy sylph eventually became a Jehovah’s Witness who would bowdlerize his more explicit material in concert. John Williams, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of sylph

1657, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sylph

New Latin sylphus

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Dictionary Entries Near sylph

syllogize

sylph

sylphic

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Statistics for sylph

Last Updated

9 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sylph.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sylph. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for sylph

sylph

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sylph

: a thin and graceful woman or girl

More from Merriam-Webster on sylph

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sylph

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