syl·​van | \ˈsil-vən \

Definition of sylvan 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: one that frequents groves or woods



Definition of sylvan (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : living or located in the woods or forest

b : of, relating to, or characteristic of the woods or forest

2a : made, shaped, or formed of woods or trees

b : abounding in woods, groves, or trees : wooded

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See the Forest and the Trees With Sylva


In Latin, sylva means "wood" or "forest," and the related Sylvanus is the name of the Roman god of the woods and fields—a god sometimes identified with the Greek god Pan. These words gave rise to English sylvan in the 16th century. The English word was first used as a noun meaning "a mythological deity of the woods," eventually taking on the broader meaning "one who frequents the woods." The adjective sylvan followed soon after the noun and is now the more common word. Some other offspring of sylva (which can also be spelled silva) include silviculture ("a branch of forestry dealing with the development and care of forests"), sylvatic (a synonym of sylvan that can also mean "occurring in or affecting wild animals"), and the first name Sylvia.

Examples of sylvan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The sylvan acreage around the Connecticut house was a precious refuge for the girls. Alexandra Styron, Town & Country, "Pop's Stars: Paul Newman's Daughters Now," 31 Dec. 2012 East of downtown is the sylvan hamlet of Fort Salonga. Marcelle Sussman Fischler, New York Times, "Northport, N.Y.: Old-Time Charm in a Waterfront Village," 2 May 2018 Winding sylvan trails in the small reserves allow birders to approach these normally elusive birds up close. Bruce M. Beehler, Smithsonian, "Thirty-Seven Warblers in a Hundred Days," 16 Apr. 2018 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park The Big Sur River carves its way through peaks and forests, creating a sylvan setting for the 62 rooms and cottages of the Big Sur Lodge. Jeanne Cooper, San Francisco Chronicle, "Top 10 California parks: Spend the night, but ditch the tent," 9 May 2018 Time has seen tree roots overtake the stonework, and the resulting sylvan maze is equal parts post-apocalyptic fantasy and a sobering reminder of our humanity. Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Days in Siem Reap," 16 Apr. 2018 Zobel doesn’t wish to inadvertently damage what remains of Hambach, the last remnant of a sylvan ecosystem that has occupied this part of the Rhine River plain between Aachen and Cologne since the end of the last ice age. National Geographic, "Ancient Forest Home of Squatter Communities Is Doomed by Coal," 13 Apr. 2018 What the scientists were talking about in their sylvan hideaway was how to build a machine that could think. Jules Julien, Smithsonian, "What Will Our Society Look Like When Artificial Intelligence Is Everywhere?," 21 Mar. 2018 By morning, like a sylvan Cinderella, its white petals wilt before the sun ever gets a shot at a kiss. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "One Night a Year, This Cactus Flower May Surprise You," 15 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sylvan.' 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 sylvan


1565, in the meaning defined above


circa 1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sylvan


Medieval Latin silvanus, sylvanus, from Latin silva, sylva wood

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Time Traveler for sylvan

The first known use of sylvan was in 1565

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English Language Learners Definition of sylvan

: having a lot of woods or trees

Comments on sylvan

What made you want to look up sylvan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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