syl·​van | \ ˈsil-vən How to pronounce sylvan (audio) \

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

There’s a sense of gentle motion in the sylvan landscapes now at Multiple Exposures Gallery, as if they’ve been shot through rain or are partly cloaked by swaying vines. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: Some art is sultry, while other pieces are smoky," 19 July 2019 This was New Canaan, a sylvan place of old-money mansions and modern farmhouses built with Wall Street bonuses. Sarah Schweitzer, The Atlantic, "The Lunch Ladies of New Canaan," 15 Aug. 2019 No sooner has Isabel arrived at the ceremony, which takes place on a sylvan estate, than her past rises up to engulf her. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“After the Wedding” Flouts Its Own Rules," 9 Aug. 2019 Latrobe’s dream of a sylvan Athens, a city defined as much by its art and culture as its tumultuous politics, is made real in several of these paintings. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "Philadelphia might have been a sylvan Athens. Instead, we got Washington, our muddy Rome.," 1 Aug. 2019 European cities tend to be less sylvan and the trees more manicured. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "The percussive appeal of the woodpecker," 17 July 2019 Ratcliffe, 44, is an accountant from the sylvan London neighborhood of West Hampstead. Alexander Smith, NBC News, "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says Iran is trying to silence protest in London," 23 June 2019 Night after night, Charlie climbs into her sylvan haven. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Jeweler Bibi van der Velden Converted a Church Gymnasium Into an Elegant Family Home," 21 Aug. 2018 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

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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The first known use of sylvan was in 1565

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English Language Learners Definition of sylvan

literary : 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).


recurring in steady succession

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