American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A reptile of the order Serpentes; a snake.
- n. In the Bible, the creature that tempted Eve.
- n. Satan.
- n. A subtle, sly, or treacherous person.
- n. A firework that writhes while burning.
- n. Music A deep-voiced wind instrument of serpentine shape, used principally from the 17th to 19th century, about 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length and made of brass or wood.
- n. Serpens.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- Crawling on the belly, as a snake, or reptant, as an ophidian; of or pertaining to the Serpentia: correlated with salient and gradient.
- Having the form or nature of a serpent; of a kind similar to that which a serpent has or might have.
- Serpentine; winding; tortuous.
- n. A scaly creature that crawls on the belly; a limbless reptile; properly, a snake; any member of the order Ophidia (which see for technical characters). Serpent and snake now mean precisely the same thing; but the word serpent is somewhat more formal or technical than snake, so that it seldom applies to the limbless lizards, many of which are popularly mistaken for and called snakes, and snake had originally a specific meaning. (See
snake.) Serpents are found all over the world, except in very cold regions. Most of them are timid, inoffensive, and defenseless animals; others are among the most dangerous and deadly of all creatures. Some are very powerful, in consequence of their great size and faculty of constriction, as boas, pythons, and anacondas. Those which are not venomous are known as innocuous serpents, or Innocua; those which are poisonous are noxious serpents, or Nocua, sometimes collectively called Thanatophidia. All are carnivorous; and most are able, by means of their dilatable mouths and the general distensibility of their bodies, to swallow animals of greater girth than themselves. In cold and temperate countries serpents hibernate in a state of torpidity. They are oviparous or ovoviviparous, and in some cases the young take refuge from danger by crawling into the gullet of the mother, whence the common belief that snakes swallow their young. Most serpents can be tamed, or at least rendered gentle, by handling; others, as the rat-snake of India, are almost domestic; but the more venomous kinds can be safely handled only when the fangs have been removed. There is a very general misapprehension respecting the comparative numbers of venomous and harmless serpents. Out of more than 300 genera of ophidians, only about 50, or one sixth, are poisonous, and more than half of these belong to the two families Najidæ and Crotalidæ (the cobra and the rattlesnake families). The true vipers (Viperidæ) and the sea-serpents (Hydrophidæ), all venomous, have six or eight genera apiece; and four other venomous families have but one to three genera apiece. The proportion of venomous to non-venomous species is still smaller than that of the genera, as the latter will average more species to a genus than the former. Poisonous serpents are mainly confined to tropical and warm temperate countries; they are more numerous and diversified in the Old World than in the New, and rather more forms are Proteroglypha than Solenoglypha (see these words). Serpents large enough to be formidable from their powers of constriction belong to the Boidæ and Pythonidæ. A few families contain very small species, worm-like in appearance and to some extent in habits. A majority of all serpents belong to one family, the harmless Colubridæ. See cuts under the various popular and technical names.
- n. [capitalized] In astronomy, a constellation in the northern hemisphere. See Ophiuchus.
- n. A musical instrument, properly of the trumpet family, having a cupped mouthpiece, a conical wooden tube bent to and fro several times and usually covered with leather, and nine fingerholes very irregularly disposed. Its compass extended from two to four octaves upward from about the third C below middle C, and included more or less diatonic and chromatic tones according to the skill of the performer. Its tone was pervasive, though somewhat harsh. It is said to have been invented by a canon of Auxerre in 1590 for use in church music. It was retained in orchestras until the invention of the contrafagotto, and is still occasionally used in French churches.
- n. In organ-building, a reed-stop similar to the trombone.
- n. Figuratively, a person who in looks or ways suggests a serpent; a wily, treacherous person; rarely, a fatally fascinating person.
- n. A kind of firework which burns with a zigzag, serpentine motion or light.
- n. In firearms, same as serpentin.
- To wind along like a snake, as a river; take or have a serpentine course; meander.
- To entwine; girdle as with the coils of a serpent.
- n. A snake.
- n. music An obsolete wind instrument in the brass family, whose shape is suggestive of a snake (Wikipedia article).
- v. obsolete To wind; to encircle.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Zoöl.) Any reptile of the order Ophidia; a snake, especially a large snake. See
- n. Fig.: A subtle, treacherous, malicious person.
- n. A species of firework having a serpentine motion as it passess through the air or along the ground.
- n. (Astron.) The constellation Serpens.
- n. (Mus.) A bass wind instrument, of a loud and coarse tone, formerly much used in military bands, and sometimes introduced into the orchestra; -- so called from its form.
- v. rare To wind like a serpent; to crook about; to meander.
- v. rare To wind; to encircle.
- n. limbless scaly elongate reptile; some are venomous
- n. an obsolete bass cornet; resembles a snake
- n. a firework that moves in serpentine manner when ignited
- From Latin Latin serpens ("snake"), from the verb serpo ("to creep"), from Proto-Indo-European *serp-. (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Old French, from Latin serpēns, serpent-, from present participle of serpere, to creep. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“As Eve gave her confidence to the serpent, she lost confidence in God, and went on to believe that when _God_ had said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," and the _serpent_ said, "Ye shall not surely die," it was the serpent that spoke the truth.”
“Practitioners, or self-described sign-followers, prefer the term serpent-handling to snake-handling noting that they incorporate poisonous reptiles not common snakes into religious worship.”
“In the Lewis they call the serpent _righinn_, that is, '_a princess; _' and they say that the serpent is a princess bewitched.”
“The image here comes from Norse mythology, in which the Midgard serpent is “of such an enormous size that holding his tail in his mouth he encircles the whole earth” (Bulfinch  2003: 333).”
“The serpent is an exaggeration of the python which grows to an enormous size.”
“Glen Kubans 'look at the Zuiyo Maru "sea serpent" is also a good and relevant read.”
“The Muslims also say that only a very few parts of the New Testament Injil or Gospels can be trusted and the Apostle Paul whom they call a serpent is form Satan and not from God.”
“In Act One, the serpent is talking to Eve: You see things, and say why-always why?”
“The word serpent, or viper, is used to denote both cunning and malignancy.”
“In many of the tales the monster, who is sometimes described as a serpent, inhabits the water of a sea, a lake, or a fountain.”
These user-created lists contain the word ‘serpent’.
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