Definitions

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

  • n. A slim, graceful woman or girl.
  • n. In the occult philosophy of Paracelsus, a being that has air as its element.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An invisible being of the air
  • n. The elemental being of air, usually female.
  • n. A slender woman or girl, usually graceful and sometimes with the implication of sublime station over everyday people.
  • n. A mainly dark green and blue hummingbird, the male of which has a long forked tail.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An imaginary being inhabiting the air; a fairy.
  • n. Fig.: A slender, graceful woman.
  • n. Any one of several species of very brilliant South American humming birds, having a very long and deeply-forked tail.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An imaginary being inhabiting the air; an elemental spirit of the air, according to the system of Paracelsus, holding an intermediate place between material and immaterial beings.
  • n. In ornithology, one of various humming-birds with long forficate tail: so called from their grace and beauty: as, the blue-tailed sylph, Cynanthus forficatus. See cut under sappho.

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

  • n. a slender graceful young woman
  • n. an elemental being believed to inhabit the air

Etymologies

New Latin sylpha, perhaps blend of Latin sylvestris, of the forest (from silva, sylva, forest) and Latin nympha, nymph; see nymph.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1657. From New Latin sylphes, coined by Paracelsus in the 16th century. The coinage may derive from sylva and nympha. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Your sylph is a delightful girl, but you must learn to be more light-hearted when you call on her.

    Archive 2009-01-01

  • "A sylph is a fairy made of air who likes to play cruel tricks on little girls."

    Archive 2009-01-01

  • The sylph was a winner; and as her taper fingers, delicately gloved in pale-gray, were adjusting the coins which had been pushed toward her in order to pass them back again to the winning point, she looked round her with a survey too markedly cold and neutral not to have in it a little of that nature which we call art concealing an inward exultation.

    Daniel Deronda

  • But they don't call the sylph-like Ms. Middleton Weighty Katie,'' if you gather my drift.

    Boston.com Top Stories

  • _ -- Another butterfly, but belonging to a widely different group, is the "sylph" (_Hestia Jasonia_), called by the

    Sketches of the Natural History of Ceylon

  • "sylph" (_Hestia Jasonia_), called by the Europeans by the various names of _Floater, Spectre, _ and _Silver-paper-fly_, as indicative of its graceful flight.

    Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notices of Its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions, Volume 1 (of 2)

  • Up until the time Clayton arrived, Mother hovered about me like a magic sylph, fluttering her tiny wings, touching a strand of hair here, brushing out a crease there, straightening my necklace and checking to be sure my perfume was not too strong and not too weak.

    Olivia

  • For this past week I have read Mark of the Demon & Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland, The Battle Sylph by LJ McDonald (trying very hard to find the shattered sylph) and Lion's Heat by Lora Leigh.

    Friday Book Club

  • By the time her first album came out, in 1985, she'd been given a thorough makeover: the cover photo showed a sleek-haired, golden-skinned sylph wearing an elegantly-draped white gown.

    Whitney Houston obituary

  • Sent by Ben and his beloved sylph bride, Willow, to an exclusive girls 'prep school, headstrong (and half-magical) Mistaya Holiday has found life in the natural world a less than perfect fit.

    A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks: Book summary

Comments

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  • "The word "silphid" or "sylph", first seen in the sixteenth century in Paracelsus' works, refers to any race of spirits inhabiting the air and is described as mortal, but lacking soul. The word is also related to the Latin word sylva meaning "slender, graceful girl" and the Greek word nymph meaning "light, airy movements"."

    --http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Silphidae&oldid=488077928

    July 19, 2012

  • And excuse me, but a sylph is also an air elemental. I imagine they are all hmphing about now.

    March 13, 2009

  • Ahh. Now all the world is a hazy green and I await a warmish breeze.

    March 13, 2009

  • Yesteryear's sylph is today's MILF.

    March 13, 2009

  • No, it actually puts me in mind of silk and soft. Funny how that works, huh? :-)

    March 27, 2007

  • Really? It doesn't sound like silt+phlegm to you?

    March 27, 2007

  • Hmm...I've always liked the word myself....

    March 27, 2007

  • Sylph sounds like it should be something disgusting, like the glop at the bottom of a polluted river.

    March 27, 2007

  • "... a tinsel sylph's diadem on her brow ..."
    Joyce, Ulysses, 15

    January 29, 2007