Definition of serpentine in US English:



  • 1Of or like a serpent or snake.

    ‘serpentine coils’
    • ‘Stopping in his tracks, Kaylun Looked around, and, out of the shadows, stepped a long, serpentine, dragon.’
    • ‘Inside the undulating serpentine shape of the snake body are shapes that resemble the decorative patterns often found on snakes to camouflage them.’
    • ‘The plaques, many shaped like letters of the alphabet and engraved with serpentine figures, knives and guns in addition to names and dates of birth and death, can be found on utility posts around the city.’
    • ‘He has four feet so he is not a serpent type, although his tail seems serpentine.’
    • ‘None of this average crop of average tales, on examination, quite breaks the code; some pursue a serpentine wriggle around it.’
    • ‘Further down the field one group were delayed putting on the old ninth because an infant snake was making its serpentine way across the green, oblivious to the drama unfolding elsewhere.’
    • ‘‘Fish like snake,’ she cautioned, waggling her hand in serpentine gesture and shaking her head discouragingly.’
    • ‘Equally large claws burst forth from his greaves, and a serpentine tail snaked forth from the small of his back.’
    • ‘The extraordinary solo of one female dancer, lifting her torso and undulating serpentine fashion on her stomach across the stage, was nothing short of masterful.’
    • ‘He's an otherwise decent scientist possessed by the swirling, serpentine tentacles that continually whisper in his ears.’
    • ‘The creature was sinuous and serpentine in appearance.’
    • ‘I retaliated by coiling my serpentine body around its neck and trying to constrict it to death.’
    • ‘Large flames protruded from its claws and its tail seemed to be serpentine.’
    • ‘Twisting his serpentine body, he saw a familiar face.’
    • ‘She says her illustration of a frenzied cat with a serpentine body always provoked immense laughter from children.’
    • ‘It was fascinating, as lanky and serpentine as a snake, but with humanoid characteristics.’
    • ‘When he beholds a Lamia, a mythic water snake whose body is partly female, partly serpentine, he considers her the solution to his aesthetic questions of light, geometry, color, and transparency.’
    • ‘However, dodge he did, and he was most thankful afterwards that he had for, instead of an arm and a hand, the monk had a thick, serpentine body with fat snake's head where the hand should be.’
    1. 1.1 Winding and twisting like a snake.
      ‘serpentine country lanes’
      • ‘Clustered on hills - its houses like red-roofed barnacles - and divided by serpentine rivers, the city is a haven both for Bulgarians seeking to reclaim their past and expats seeking to escape theirs.’
      • ‘The show on the second floor of the multi-storeyed Customs House, attracted hundreds of excited buyers who stood in serpentine queues clutching bulging purses.’
      • ‘Then Frankie and I climb back in and the three of us continue down the languid, serpentine river.’
      • ‘Finish with a 12-mile mountain-bike ride on the serpentine Forest Service roads of the Chugach National Forest, near Girdwood.’
      • ‘The Indian cricketers won their first Test on Pakistani soil, and this old town, with its maze of serpentine lanes and pocket-sized shops, had been witness to cricketing history.’
      • ‘Then the couple decided to throw some curves at the problem, in the form of a serpentine front deck that echoes curves in the home's landscaping.’
      • ‘Zig-zag roads and serpentine rivers criss-crossing different valleys of this far-flung district, make the landscape even more fascinating.’
      • ‘Drivers would continue on the serpentine route until the road they actually need from Brighton Hill is the first left.’
      • ‘The center of old cities is the casbah (Arabic for fortress), a market of serpentine alleyways and intricate arches where a variety of traditional crafts are sold, from carpets to baskets to pottery.’
      • ‘They complement each other wonderfully, their serpentine lines constantly weaving in and out, creating a dense tapestry.’
      • ‘Banana trees hang out over the long and winding road and traffic rips around serpentine curves at speeds more appropriate to medical emergencies than the transportation of fruit.’
      • ‘He has just completed a three-mile long serpentine sculpture in a New Zealand estuary.’
      • ‘As one looks upward at the wall, one can find the serpentine road clinging to the mountain just like a snake with numerous whirls.’
      • ‘The serpentine quality of the Nile, as it endlessly meanders from one end of the manuscript to another, marked by small tributaries, is remarkable.’
      • ‘This runs from the main road to the north through the forest to link with a series of serpentine paths that meander around the grave fields on the eastern flank of the site.’
      • ‘Nothing could have been more heart-warming than the sight of people standing patiently in a serpentine queue at the auditorium to buy the commemorative stamp!’
      • ‘Arctic Village is an assembly of 40-odd spruce-log cabins that overlook the serpentine bends, oxbows, and channels of the East Fork.’
      • ‘Over the past year their government has set about establishing that separation unilaterally by the construction of a serpentine course of fences, barriers, and walls.’
      • ‘Afternoons are a nightmare for commuters standing in serpentine queues at the rear entrance of the City Railway Station.’
      • ‘You can meander along the serpentine paths that lead into the forests and soak in some wilderness.’
      winding, windy, zigzag, zigzagging, twisting, twisty, turning, meandering, curving, sinuous, snaking, snaky, tortuous
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    2. 1.2 Complex, cunning, or treacherous.
      ‘his charm was too subtle and serpentine for me’
      • ‘Gladiator weds the heroic scope of movies like Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Braveheart, and Rob Roy with the serpentine political treachery of I, Claudius.’
      complicated, intricate, complex, involved, tortuous, convoluted, tangled, elaborate, knotty, confusing, bewildering, baffling
      View synonyms


  • 1A dark green mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate, sometimes mottled or spotted like a snake's skin.

    • ‘The naturally occurring mineral serpentine sequesters carbon dioxide very slowly over eons.’
    • ‘This is consistent with low-porosity sedimentary serpentine.’
    • ‘If you're into stone, there are items in verdite, black serpentine, leopard rock and butterjet, all from Zimbabwe.’
    • ‘It is underlain by schist, phyllite, and quartzite, although outcrops of serpentine are common in the area.’
    • ‘The intellectual and creative processes by which we improve infrastructural code are no less natural than the geological forces that turn granite into gneiss, limestone into marble and peridotite into serpentine.’
    • ‘The metamorphic mineral serpentine - or magnesium silicate hydroxide - is composed of magnesium, silicon and oxygen and is plentiful.’
    • ‘He created the field trip trophy from serpentine and quartz - a beautifully crafted piece of work.’
    • ‘Also mixed in the melange are sandy limestone and serpentine, as well as sediments that eroded off a precursor of our present Sierra Nevada Range.’
    • ‘This rare work of porphyry, limestone, serpentine and onyx is unique north of the Alps.’
    • ‘Neither had iron tools and instead used such hard stones as flint, jade, dolerite, basalt, and serpentine to make axes, knives, and chisels.’
    • ‘Limestone, serpentine, and acidic rock types are extensive in western Newfoundland; peatlands, fens, and forest cover large areas.’
    • ‘Trade was important and again focused on the ceremonial sites: obsidian, magnetite, serpentine, and mica were among the materials acquired through exchange.’
    • ‘The themes are derived largely from African folklore and transformed into figurative, semiabstract, and minimalist works that use a variety of stone, including black serpentine.’
    • ‘I was commended on one fine piece of unusual serpentine that I'd found, and felt very pleased with myself indeed, until I remembered that I had, after all, found it, and had had no idea in the world how rare it was until that moment.’
    • ‘Methane is a product of this process, as is the mineral serpentine.’
  • 2A riding exercise consisting of a series of half-circles made alternately to right and left.

    • ‘Try and work on his balance and collection by riding full circles, half circles (to each side), figure eights and serpentines.’
    • ‘Extended canter down the long side was the compensation to the horse after a three-loop serpentine at the canter with no change of rein.’
  • 3historical A kind of cannon, used especially in the 15th and 16th centuries.

    • ‘By 1500 triggers had been developed, which remotely operated the serpentine and thus removed the gunner's hand from the area of the touch-hole.’


  • no object, with adverbial of direction Move or lie in a winding path or line.

    ‘fresh tire tracks serpentined back toward the hopper’
    • ‘That's all fine and good, but to a group of yahoos serpentining around a grassy knoll taking pots shots at each other, it maybe seems like too much, you know?’
    • ‘It is an easy drive on two lane roads that serpentine through the Laurel Mountains.’


Late Middle English: via Old French from late Latin serpentinus (see serpent).