Definition of sphinx in US English:



  • 1Greek Mythology
    A winged monster having a woman's head and a lion's body. It propounded a riddle about the three ages of man, killing those who failed to solve it, until Oedipus was successful, whereupon the Sphinx committed suicide.

    1. 1.1the Sphinx An ancient Egyptian stone figure having a lion's body and a human or animal head, especially the huge statue near the Pyramids at Giza.
      • ‘The building with the sphinx and obelisks in the center housed Akoun's Beautiful Orient with its bazaar offering wares from the Middle East.’
      • ‘They were going to see the sphinx and come back with souvenirs.’
      • ‘When the sphinx was crumbling they finally repaired it in plaster, which needs replacing every five years, in order to maintain the point of decay, and clarify the difference.’
    2. 1.2 An enigmatic or inscrutable person.
      ‘it drove him mad when she turned herself into a sphinx as a ruse to avoid facing the truth’
      • ‘The shy, introverted Gandhi, once described as a sphinx and an enigma, has come a long way in the past six years.’
  • 2North American

    another term for hawk moth


Late Middle English: via Latin from Greek Sphinx, apparently from sphingein ‘draw tight’.