American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. Mythology A figure in Egyptian myth having the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.
- n. Greek Mythology A winged creature having the head of a woman and the body of a lion, noted for killing those who could not answer its riddle.
- n. A puzzling or mysterious person.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In Greek myth, a female monster, said to have proposed a riddle to the Thebans who passed her as she sat on a rock by the roadside, and to have killed all who were not able to guess it. The riddle, according to tradition, inquired what being has successively four, two, and three feet, and is weakest when it has most feet. Œdipus answered, Man, who creeps in infancy, afterward goes erect, and finally walks with a staff (a third foot). The Sphinx, in compliance with her own conditions, thereupon threw herself from her rock and died. In art this monster is represented with the body of a lion or a dog, winged, and the head and often the breasts of a woman.
- n. In Egyptian antiquity, a figure somewhat similar in composition to the Greek, having the body of a lion (never winged), and a male human head or an animal head. The human-headed figures have been called androsphinxes; those with the head of a ram, criosphinxes; and those with the head of a hawk, hieracosphinxes. Egyptian sphinxes are symbolical figures, having no connection with the Greek fable; and the Greeks probably applied the term sphinx to the Egyptian statues merely on account of the accidental external resemblance between them and their own conception. The Egyptian sphinxes were commonly placed in avenues leading to temples or tombs. The most celebrated example is the Great Sphinx near the great pyramids of Ghizeh, hewn out of solid granite, with the recumbent body of a lion, 146 feet long from the shoulders to the rump, and 56 feet high, and a man's head 28½ feet high from chin to crown. A small temple stood between the fore paws of this sphinx. There are also Oriental sphinxes, in general akin to the Egyptian, but more often winged than wingless. See cut under
- n. In heraldry, a creature with a lion's body and a woman's head, but not necessarily like any ancient original. It is assumed to be winged; when not winged, it should be blazoned “sans wings.”
- n. An enigmatic or sphinx-like person; one who talks puzzlingly, or is inscrutable in disposition or character; one whom it is hard to understand.
- n. In entomology:
- n. A hawk-moth; a member of the genus Sphinx or the family Sphingidæ. See cuts under hawk-moth, hog-caterpillar. Lepidoptera, and Philampelus.
- n. The typical genus of the family Sphingidæ. At first it was coextensive with this family; later it formed a group of variable extent; now it is confined to forms having the head small, the eyes lashed, tibiæ spinose, and fore tarsi usually armed with long spines. It is a wide-spread genus; 19 species occur in America north of Mexico. The larvæ of this, as well as of other groups of the family Sphingidæ, have the habit of erecting the head and anterior segments, from which Linnæus derived a fanciful resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx (whence the name).
- n. The Guinea baboon, Cynocephalus papio or Papio sphinx. Also called sphinx-bahoon.
- n. mythology A creature with the head of a human and the body of an animal (commonly a lion).
- n. A person who keeps his thoughts and intentions secret.
- n. rare A sphincter.
- v. To decorate with sphinxes.
- v. To adopt the posture of the Sphinx.
- v. To be inscrutable, often through silence.
- v. To make one guess at the unknowable
- v. To befuddle.
- v. For the feminine to co-opt, dominate, or devour the masculine, especially from a paranoid fear of this happening
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. In Egyptian art, an image of granite or porphyry, having a human head, or the head of a ram or of a hawk, upon the wingless body of a lion.
- n. On Greek art and mythology, a she-monster, usually represented as having the winged body of a lion, and the face and breast of a young woman.
- n. Hence: A person of enigmatical character and purposes, especially in politics and diplomacy.
- n. (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species of large moths of the family
Sphingidæ; -- called also hawk moth. See also tomato worm.
- n. (Zoöl.) The Guinea, or sphinx, baboon (Cynocephalus sphinx).
- n. an inscrutable person who keeps his thoughts and intentions secret
- n. (Greek mythology) a riddling winged monster with a woman's head and breast on a lion's body; daughter of Typhon
- n. one of a number of large stone statues with the body of a lion and the head of a man that were built by the ancient Egyptians
- Middle English Spynx, from Latin Sphinx, from Greek. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“A sphinx is a mythological creature that is depicted as a recumbent feline with a human head.”
“His sphinx is a statue, his hind of arcadia is your garden variety moose, as his Cerberus is a urinating hiding mafioso and his three Rhodesian ridgebacks.”
“Note their size and colour, the oblique stripes on the sides, the horn which is used for terrifying assailants, the habit of remaining rigid for hours -- hence the name sphinx moth.”
“The sphinx is a purely Egyptian monster and of immemorial antiquity, the Great Sphinx of Ghizeh being probably the oldest monument in Egypt.”
“But that doesn't give me the right to stick my nose into their conversations and correct them about the etymology of the word sphinx or the value of Chrysler products.”
“She is known as the sphinx of Indian politics, the mysterious widow who rose to lead a nation of 1.14 billion people.”
“He felt her claws penetrate his cranium and touch his brain and he began to have visions of sphinx's flying at him (he didn't know they were called sphinx's, but he'd seen them on TV and knew what they looked like), sphinx's laughing and waving their claws and flapping their wings and swishing their enormous tails like cats about to pounce.”
“The second, with rough hair, is called sphinx, and is docile, not wild.”
“ZAHI HAWASS, EGYPT'S CHIEF OF ANTIQUITIES: The sphinx is the oldest sick (ph) monument in the world.”
These user-created lists contain the word ‘sphinx’.
takes the form of a, demon, teeth of iron, unicorn, forest spirit, magical eel, savage humanoid, one-horned animal, creature, headless humanoid, disease-bringing ..., rainbow-feathered... and 607 more...
Fictitious birds. Thanks to PossibleUnderscore for the idea! (Please add a brief description under "Comments" if the creature isn't well-known.)
Beginning with my favourites from this site.
Scientific names are in, but bacteria and viruses are out, so no -poxes.
Also no Gauls.
Words ending in "x" (except proper nouns and trademarks)
words that evoke magic, mystery, mayhem, magnificence or anything else that glimmers in the grass
Some words of from XTC songs that I like or for some reason stand out. That and a dollar will get you a ride on the bus.
Looking for tweets for sphinx.