Definition of sylph in US English:



  • 1An imaginary spirit of the air.

    • ‘The plots of many ballets were dominated by spirit women - sylphs, wilis, and ghosts - who enslaved the hearts and senses of mortal men and made it impossible for them to live happily in the real world.’
    • ‘Will she call on salamanders and sylphs as well, I wonder?’
    • ‘During the Romantic period, most ballets told stories taken from ancient myths or dramas, with supernatural female creatures, such as sylphs, shades, and water nymphs, enjoying great popularity.’
    • ‘The emphasis in ballet was still on fairies, sylphs, and glorious processions.’
    • ‘‘She is a sylph; a water-sprite,’ said Anest, who knew from experience to be direct and honest in his dealing with elves.’
    • ‘They are but one of the many hidden groups that still cling to the ancient ways of pure magic; that is, they are among one of many groups (which include elves, sylphs, sprites, fairies, etc.) that took part in inventing magic.’
    • ‘If the encounters between scholars and sylphs, poets and naiads record the possibility of connection between two sentient beings, Badri also records the possibility of connection between the individual and the universe.’
    • ‘Under a colorless sky stained with clouds, ten sylphs dance in a ring.’
    • ‘Little surprise that was; sylphs led longer lives than humans, and usually kept their physical appearance throughout their lives.’
    • ‘Belloc said to the girl, ‘Why do you fear the sylph, Lily.’’
    • ‘The 234-page tract is laced with watercolors of plants, astronomical drawings and naked sylphs, but it is the language that truly confounds scholars.’
    • ‘‘I will do as you say,’ said the sylph, and then spread her wings and swooped off across the little dale.’
    • ‘The idea of the dragon / sylph gets explained more in the Rilleta chapter coming up.’
    • ‘The elements were inhabited by spirits - the air by sylphs, the water by nymphs or undines, the earth by gnomes, the fire by salamanders - and by many other spiritual or supernatural beings, such as syrens, nenuphar, lorins, etc.’
    • ‘June was the result of a human and a sylph's love; her parents, like so many other human-nonhuman couples, had been killed for their love bond.’
    • ‘I felt my heart leap in my chest as my eyes sought out a dripping wet sylph sitting in a corner.’
    • ‘Natalia Magnicaballi has the regal bearing of a queen, the spirit of a gypsy, and the soul of a sylph.’
    • ‘I want to say that was a sylph… but surely they all died or fled long ago, didn't they?’
    • ‘Wearing droopy tulle skirts and white corsets over T-shirts, she and her cast might be a group of actual sylphs or swans, forest spirits who are seen only out of the corner of your eye.’
    • ‘And why would an Azure dragon change into a sylph, anyway?’
    1. 1.1 A slender woman or girl.
      ‘an oh-so-slim sylph dressed in a black leotard’
      • ‘Allie, a slim sylph, had the Ruby Keeler-Peggy Sawyer part.’
      • ‘As I gaze at this slender sylph in front of me, the absurdity of her paranoia gets me thinking that women so often suffer from a distorted view of themselves.’
      • ‘Over the years she has put on about 130 pounds but still dresses as if she were a sylph.’
      • ‘The ideal body image imprinted on my brain during adolescence belonged to the crew of sylphs that called Kate Moss their chief.’
      • ‘Putting on a gypsy skirt now might just feel like getting yourself up as a ridiculous imitation of yourself as a beautiful sylph wafting around pretending to be Talitha Getty in Morocco, circa 1969.’
      • ‘On the streets of Tokyo, slim-hipped sylphs favour stiletto-heeled Prada sandals, demure Agnes B pencil skirts, a Hermes jacket and a Louis Vuitton handbag.’
      • ‘It's clear enough that women are not sylphs in Garcia's eyes.’
      • ‘Two security guards were trying to restrain her - one tall guy and one wee blonde sylph one-eighth the size of the offender.’
      • ‘She transforms herself from an awkward girl with ‘kinky hair and bad skin’ into a ravishing, couture-clad sylph, winning adulation for her public appearances around the world.’
      girl, belle, maiden, maid, nymphet
      View synonyms
  • 2A mainly dark green and blue hummingbird, the male of which has a long forked tail.

    Genus Aglaiocercus (and Neolesbia), family Trochilidae: three species

    • ‘The Long-tailed Sylph occurs in highlands of northwestern South America from Venezuela to Bolivia.’
    • ‘Flowerbeds where bees vie with hummingbirds for honey offer unmatched opportunity to observe sylphs.’
    • ‘In the Otonga area, during this study, the violet tailed sylphs and speckled hummingbirds were observed as those with the largest diet range.’


Mid 17th century: from modern Latin sylphes, sylphi and the German plural Sylphen, perhaps based on Latin sylvestris ‘of the woods’ + nympha ‘nymph’.