Definitions

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

Etymologies

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

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

Examples

  • We grow it, and we found what we identified as sphinx moth larvae on the plants.

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  • A sphinx is a mythological creature that is depicted as a recumbent feline with a human head.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • The sphinx is a purely Egyptian monster and of immemorial antiquity, the Great Sphinx of Ghizeh being probably the oldest monument in Egypt.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • She is known as the sphinx of Indian politics, the mysterious widow who rose to lead a nation of 1.14 billion people.

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  • The second, with rough hair, is called sphinx, and is docile, not wild.

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  • The second, with rough hair, is called sphinx, and is docile, not wild.

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Comments

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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