from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Mythology A figure in Egyptian myth having the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A puzzling or mysterious person.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.”
  • noun An enigmatic or sphinx-like person; one who talks puzzlingly, or is inscrutable in disposition or character; one whom it is hard to understand.
  • noun In entomology:
  • noun A hawk-moth; a member of the genus Sphinx or the family Sphingidæ. See cuts under hawk-moth, hog-caterpillar. Lepidoptera, and Philampelus.
  • noun The typical genus of the family Sphingidæ.
  • noun The Guinea baboon, Cynocephalus papio or Papio sphinx. Also called sphinx-bahoon.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Hence: A person of enigmatical character and purposes, especially in politics and diplomacy.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any one of numerous species of large moths of the family Sphingidæ; -- called also hawk moth. See also tomato worm.
  • noun (Zoöl.) The Guinea, or sphinx, baboon (Cynocephalus sphinx).
  • noun (Zoöl.) a large West African baboon (Cynocephalus sphinx), often kept in menageries.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Same as Sphinx, 3.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun mythology A creature with the head of a human and the body of an animal (commonly a lion).
  • noun A person who keeps his thoughts and intentions secret.
  • noun rare A sphincter.
  • verb To decorate with sphinxes.
  • verb To adopt the posture of the Sphinx.
  • verb To be inscrutable, often through silence.
  • verb To make one guess at the unknowable
  • verb To befuddle.
  • verb For the feminine to co-opt, dominate, or devour the masculine, especially from a paranoid fear of this happening

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an inscrutable person who keeps his thoughts and intentions secret
  • noun (Greek mythology) a riddling winged monster with a woman's head and breast on a lion's body; daughter of Typhon
  • noun 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


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English Spynx, from Latin Sphinx, from Greek.]


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  • Plural can be sphinges

    September 24, 2009

  • I'm pretty sure it would be sphinkes.

    As in phylax and phylakes, no doubt.

    September 24, 2009

  • One might venture to guess that sphinkes are the little hand-sized souvenirs purchased after a visit to a full-sized version of a sphinx. "Could I have 5 sphinkes please?" "Yes, I do want to haggle mightily with you - eighty-five cents American enough?"

    sphinkes as in tchotchkes...

    September 25, 2009