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’
    • ‘Behind these were many ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, and in the rear a thousand beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.’
    • ‘In the sixth canto she finds herself lost and abandoned amongst a ‘salvage nation’ who resemble the satyrs and nymphs of classical mythology.’
    • ‘All sort of mystical creatures called it their home: elves, dwarves, nymphs, and pixies, among others.’
    • ‘The Lady is eventually rescued by Sabrina, the nymph of the river Severn and an embodiment of chastity.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Otus and Ephialtes were twin giants who were sons of Poseidon and a nymph.’
    • ‘Nijinsky's was about a mythological creature who encounters nymphs in a wood on a summer afternoon.’
    • ‘He fell down into the legendary river Eridanus where he was found by the river nymphs who mourned him and buried him.’
    • ‘The Argo slipped through Scylla and Charybdis, guarded by nymphs.’
    • ‘The dryads, the flower faeries and the nymphs dwelled in various trees and plants around the forest.’
    • ‘Emblematic of abundance, the cornucopia - or horn of plenty - represents the horn of Amalthea, a nymph in Greek mythology.’
    • ‘The nymphs sat on the edges of ponds in the Jade Forest with the lounging god of the sun and god of the hunt.’
    • ‘Iris calls out river nymphs to bless the marriage and a myriad of shapes and forms enter the stage.’
    • ‘Enter Paris, a shepherd in a rather creative marriage with the mountain nymph Oenone.’
    • ‘Above float an airborne cast of Gods and Goddesses, heavenly nymphs and tree spirits, and snake-hooded nagas and naginis.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thetis tells the other nymphs to go home because she plans to visit Hephaestus.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Zeus freed Odysseus from the nymph Calypso, who held him prisoner on her island, by sending Mercury with an order to Calypso herself.’
    • ‘‘She is a forest nymph of the Black Wood,’ said Lily.’
    sprite, sylph, wood nymph, water nymph
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    1. 1.1literary A beautiful young woman.
      girl, belle, maiden, maid, nymphet, sylph
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  • 2An immature form of an insect that does not change greatly as it grows, e.g. a dragonfly, mayfly, or locust.

    Compare with larva
    • ‘The scientists found that the non-native fish are aiding bullfrog invasion by eating native dragonfly nymphs that would normally prey on bullfrog larvae.’
    • ‘Dragonfly nymphs are shorter and bulkier, and the gills are located inside the abdomen.’
    • ‘The bulk of the diet of trout is made up of small invertebrates, particularly mayfly nymphs and caddis fly larvae.’
    • ‘Why do many helminth species, apparently grebe specialists, use dragonfly nymphs as intermediate hosts?’
    • ‘Once the eggs hatch, nymphs grow for about nine to 12 days, mate, and then females lay eggs.’
    • ‘The nits hatch into a nymph, or immature louse, in seven to 10 days.’
    • ‘The hawkers, or dragon nymphs are longer and thinner and they patrol up and down looking out for prey on which to swoop.’
    • ‘Numerous grasshopper nymphs were noticed in the border of several fields.’
    • ‘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 growth stage of grasshopper nymphs can be determined by looking at the size of the individual and the length of the wing pads.’
    • ‘Mallards and black ducks also dive for pond snails and probably a range of aquatic insects like dragonfly nymphs.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Although the adult doesn't look much like a scale, the nymph and pupa do.’
    • ‘As a grasshopper nymph grows, the pads become longer and venation becomes evident.’
    • ‘The children's trays began to fill with mayfly nymphs, aquatic sow bugs, and the larvae of blackflies, caddis flies, and blood red midges.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was in April, I think: the dragonfly nymphs were molting by the river.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A mayfly nymph was the most successful fly on the day and other successful flies were the Gosling and Bumble Olive.’
    1. 2.1 An artificial fishing fly made to resemble the aquatic nymph of an insect.
      • ‘A selection of nymphs and dry flies such as beaded pheasant tail, damsel and dragon fly nymphs all will all work.’
      • ‘When fishing in Swedish Lapland I have used some awesome looking stone fly nymphs which the grayling eat with relish.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3A mainly brown butterfly that frequents woods and forest glades.

    • ‘The Ceylon tree nymph is a beautiful silvery white butterfly (2) and is the largest member of the Danaidae family in Sri Lanka.’
    • ‘The Malabar Tree Nymph (Idea malabarica) is a large butterfly found in peninsular India that belongs to the danaid group of the family Nymphalidae.’
    • ‘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’.