Definition of nymph in English:



  • 1A mythological spirit of nature imagined as a beautiful maiden inhabiting rivers, woods, or other locations.

    ‘the idyllic world of nymphs and shepherds’
    ‘a wood nymph’
    • ‘The Lady is eventually rescued by Sabrina, the nymph of the river Severn and an embodiment of chastity.’
    • ‘The nymphs sat on the edges of ponds in the Jade Forest with the lounging god of the sun and god of the hunt.’
    • ‘Behind these were many ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, and in the rear a thousand beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.’
    • ‘Thetis tells the other nymphs to go home because she plans to visit Hephaestus.’
    • ‘Enter Paris, a shepherd in a rather creative marriage with the mountain nymph Oenone.’
    • ‘Emblematic of abundance, the cornucopia - or horn of plenty - represents the horn of Amalthea, a nymph in Greek mythology.’
    • ‘The Argo slipped through Scylla and Charybdis, guarded by nymphs.’
    • ‘Above float an airborne cast of Gods and Goddesses, heavenly nymphs and tree spirits, and snake-hooded nagas and naginis.’
    • ‘He fell down into the legendary river Eridanus where he was found by the river nymphs who mourned him and buried him.’
    • ‘Iris calls out river nymphs to bless the marriage and a myriad of shapes and forms enter the stage.’
    • ‘As the son of Chronos and the ocean nymph Philyra he was immortal, but he received a terrible, poisonous wound from an arrow which was shot (in error) by Hercules.’
    • ‘‘She is a forest nymph of the Black Wood,’ said Lily.’
    • ‘The dryads, the flower faeries and the nymphs dwelled in various trees and plants around the forest.’
    • ‘Pitt's character, the warrior Achilles, is no longer virtually invincible because he was dipped in the River Styx by his mother, the nymph Thetis.’
    • ‘In the sixth canto she finds herself lost and abandoned amongst a ‘salvage nation’ who resemble the satyrs and nymphs of classical mythology.’
    • ‘The classically educated amongst us will recognise it as an anagram of ‘Naiads’ the freshwater nymphs from Greek mythology, who dwelt in brooks and springs.’
    • ‘Zeus freed Odysseus from the nymph Calypso, who held him prisoner on her island, by sending Mercury with an order to Calypso herself.’
    • ‘Nijinsky's was about a mythological creature who encounters nymphs in a wood on a summer afternoon.’
    • ‘Otus and Ephialtes were twin giants who were sons of Poseidon and a nymph.’
    • ‘All sort of mystical creatures called it their home: elves, dwarves, nymphs, and pixies, among others.’
    sprite, sylph, wood nymph, water nymph
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1literary A beautiful young woman.
      girl, belle, maiden, maid, nymphet, sylph
      View synonyms
  • 2An immature form of an insect that does not change greatly as it grows, e.g. a dragonfly, mayfly, or locust.

    Compare with larva
    • ‘Numerous grasshopper nymphs were noticed in the border of several fields.’
    • ‘Once the eggs hatch, nymphs grow for about nine to 12 days, mate, and then females lay eggs.’
    • ‘The scientists found that the non-native fish are aiding bullfrog invasion by eating native dragonfly nymphs that would normally prey on bullfrog larvae.’
    • ‘The children's trays began to fill with mayfly nymphs, aquatic sow bugs, and the larvae of blackflies, caddis flies, and blood red midges.’
    • ‘The growth stage of grasshopper nymphs can be determined by looking at the size of the individual and the length of the wing pads.’
    • ‘A mayfly nymph was the most successful fly on the day and other successful flies were the Gosling and Bumble Olive.’
    • ‘Dragonfly nymphs are shorter and bulkier, and the gills are located inside the abdomen.’
    • ‘It was in April, I think: the dragonfly nymphs were molting by the river.’
    • ‘Although the adult doesn't look much like a scale, the nymph and pupa do.’
    • ‘We think of dragonflies as aerial creatures, but they spend most of their lives - one to three years - underwater as nymphs, eating small insects and larvae.’
    • ‘Immature ticks, or nymphs, are about the size of a poppy seed; adult ticks are the size of a sesame seed.’
    • ‘The afternoon of pond-dipping will be divided between two of Oakwell's ponds and visitors can expect to see anything from sticklebacks and frogs to diving beetles and dragonfly nymphs.’
    • ‘Why do many helminth species, apparently grebe specialists, use dragonfly nymphs as intermediate hosts?’
    • ‘In this particular water, we know that we have small water beetle, you probably have some of the nymphs of the damsel fly, towards the mid stages of production at the moment.’
    • ‘The hawkers, or dragon nymphs are longer and thinner and they patrol up and down looking out for prey on which to swoop.’
    • ‘As a grasshopper nymph grows, the pads become longer and venation becomes evident.’
    • ‘The nits hatch into a nymph, or immature louse, in seven to 10 days.’
    • ‘The bulk of the diet of trout is made up of small invertebrates, particularly mayfly nymphs and caddis fly larvae.’
    • ‘Mallards and black ducks also dive for pond snails and probably a range of aquatic insects like dragonfly nymphs.’
    • ‘Pranger and her family enjoyed sneaking out at night with a flashlight to peek at the dragonfly nymphs and tiny, two-inch-long tree frogs that had taken up residence in the ponds.’
    1. 2.1 An artificial fishing fly made to resemble the aquatic nymph of an insect.
      • ‘I selected a small gold bead mayfly nymph tied on a size 12 hook, as it was white and clearly visible in the murky water.’
      • ‘A selection of nymphs and dry flies such as beaded pheasant tail, damsel and dragon fly nymphs all will all work.’
      • ‘To be a successful all-round grayling angler you need a selection of dry flies, nymphs and wet flies.’
      • ‘My mind was made up, come June 16th I would be targeting river Teme barbel with some weighted Richard Walker mayfly nymphs.’
      • ‘When fishing in Swedish Lapland I have used some awesome looking stone fly nymphs which the grayling eat with relish.’
  • 3A mainly brown butterfly that frequents woods and forest glades.

    Several genera in the subfamily Satyrinae, family Nymphalidae. See also wood nymph

    • ‘The Malabar Tree Nymph (Idea malabarica) is a large butterfly found in peninsular India that belongs to the danaid group of the family Nymphalidae.’
    • ‘The Ceylon tree nymph is a beautiful silvery white butterfly (2) and is the largest member of the Danaidae family in Sri Lanka.’
    • ‘When you visit the Butterfly Wing, one of the most remarkable butterflies you will see is the giant wood nymph, Idea leuconoe.’


Late Middle English: from Old French nimphe, from Latin nympha, from Greek numphē ‘nymph, bride’; related to Latin nubere ‘be the wife of’.