Definition of serpent in US English:



  • 1literary A large snake.

    • ‘As he stepped back, his hand still outstretched, the serpent coiled around him and blended into his body.’
    • ‘‘If you were there when they were not taking up serpents, or even during other parts of a service where they did, it would be like many other Pentecostal groups,’ he explained.’
    • ‘When one hears the rattle of a serpent's tail, they flee the area from which it came.’
    • ‘There was a large serpent coiled about in an offensive manner and hissing ominously.’
    • ‘The serpent coiled, tensing to spring forth once more.’
    • ‘We saw monkeys swinging through the tree-tops and a long black serpent snaking menacingly over branches.’
    • ‘The serpent finished wrapping itself around him and began to constrict him.’
    • ‘I was backing up as the monstrous serpent advanced on me.’
    • ‘Sluggish, heavily polluted and evil smelling, it snaked through the borough like a poisonous serpent.’
    • ‘Focusing intently on the object, he was relatively relieved to discover that it was a copper sphere with a serpent wrapped around it, not the grim skull that he expected to see.’
    • ‘Hiding out in or near steamy rivers and swamps in South America east of the Andes from Colombia to Paraguay and also on the island of Trinidad, these semiaquatic serpents are the largest snakes in the world.’
    • ‘Because there, on the floor, like a coiled serpent, lies the cause of the problem.’
    • ‘He was participating in a rattlesnake roundup and forgot he'd put a serpent under his hat - the hat he was wearing.’
    • ‘The rocks beneath were smooth and interlinked like the overlapping scales of a serpent.’
    • ‘The android girl stomped over to where the enormous serpent was sitting, determined to crush the bulky snake with her amazing strength.’
    • ‘He pours libations at his father's tomb and a seven spiraled serpent slithers from the mound.’
    • ‘Two-headed snakes are rare but not unheard of, and one recently found in Spain is giving scientists an opportunity to study how the anomaly affects the serpents' ability to hunt and mate.’
    • ‘Join us each day for stories about serpents, from flying snakes to Vietnamese cobras and North American copperheads.’
    • ‘The doors to the club were made of smooth dark wood with two silver door handles shaped like serpents.’
    • ‘This story airs in the United States tonight on the National Geographic Channel's Five Days of Snakes - a series of programs about serpents, and the scientists and others who work with them.’
    1. 1.1 A biblical name for Satan (see Gen. 3, Rev. 20).
      • ‘The story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent seemed a naïve myth.’
      • ‘One other slant on this whole thing is that some Gnostic sects believed the Serpent not to be a tempter, but to be a Redeemer.’
      • ‘Through him, as we have shown and as so many texts have indicated, God has destroyed the serpent and the angels and human beings who have grown like it.’
      • ‘This great dragon, the serpent of old, called the devil and Satan, was defeated and thrown down to the earth, with his angels, now called demons.’
      • ‘Interstingly enough, in the Haggadah, the Serpent in the garden is actually in charge of the other creatures of the garden, and walks upright, and has hands.’
      • ‘A saxophone represents the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, which should give jazz bands pause!’
      • ‘And the serpent tempted Eve, 'Eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.'’
      • ‘His reference to Eve and the Serpent is highly relevant.’
      • ‘The woman said, The serpent beguiled me and I ate.’
    2. 1.2 A dragon or other mythical snake-like reptile.
      • ‘The opening theme is based on the ancient myth that the River Lee was formed by the gorging tail of a giant serpent defeated in battle by St Finbarr.’
      • ‘Further legends state that the omphalos at Delphi stands upon the spot where Apollo killed the serpent Python, or upon the chasm through which the waters of Deucalion's flood drained away.’
      • ‘A giant serpent shot from it and grabbed the captain in its mouth for an instant.’
      • ‘A column of water arose and formed into a great serpent, and the head of the serpent was that of a woman.’
      • ‘Storybook dragons and serpents may have a basis in reality.’
      • ‘A colossal black serpent, with a dragon's head, wings, and legs, was twisted around itself like a giant knot.’
      • ‘At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill this serpent but will die from its poison.’
      • ‘In Australia, the Aborigines associated a giant rainbow serpent with the creation of life, similar to the Aztec belief.’
      • ‘The winged serpents headed towards the monster and several managed to bite him before they were squashed between his giant hands.’
      • ‘She told him to take the serpent's teeth and sow them in the ground.’
      • ‘Blaze formed a fireball in his hand and launched it at the giant serpent, but it was simply eaten by its right head.’
      • ‘The dragon and the serpent flew into the clouds and it started to rain heavily.’
      • ‘The feathered serpent flew up into the air, his body glowing in a heavenly way.’
      • ‘According to folklore, the lake is home to a giant serpent with extraordinary powers.’
      • ‘It's a snake-like serpent which came upon the landscape and created the rivers and streams and waterholes.’
      • ‘The great serpent woke at once, squealing so loudly that the mountains shook.’
      • ‘It told the story of the Christian saint who not only fought off a fire-breathing serpent but also a Turkish knight.’
      • ‘A quick check revealed that she was in the camp of the winged serpents.’
      • ‘In the original, Krishna lies sleeping on the twelve-headed demon serpent.’
      • ‘It had dragons and serpents and chimeras and gryphons and other fun creatures that I wish existed.’
  • 2A sly or treacherous person, especially one who exploits a position of trust in order to betray it.

    traitor, turncoat, betrayer, informer, back-stabber, double-crosser, double-dealer, quisling, judas
    View synonyms
  • 3historical A bass wind instrument made of leather-covered wood in three U-shaped turns, with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and few keys. It was played in military and church bands from the 17th to 19th centuries.

    • ‘An exception must be made for the occasions when the serpent is used to double the awesome Dies Irae at Requiem mass.’
    • ‘Brass bands began as military bands in the 19th century, initially with keyed bugles, serpents, bass horns, and other keyed brass instruments, changing to valved brass once these became available.’


Middle English: via Old French from Latin serpent- ‘creeping’, from the verb serpere.