Definition of sphinx in English:



  • 1Greek Mythology
    A winged monster of Thebes, 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. 1.1An ancient Egyptian stone figure having a lion's body and a human or animal head, especially the huge statue near the Pyramids at Giza.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They were going to see the sphinx and come back with souvenirs.’
      • ‘The building with the sphinx and obelisks in the center housed Akoun's Beautiful Orient with its bazaar offering wares from the Middle East.’
    2. 1.2An enigmatic or inscrutable person.
      • ‘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.