Definition of uroboros in English:


(also ouroboros)


  • A circular symbol depicting a snake, or less commonly a dragon, swallowing its tail, as an emblem of wholeness or infinity.

    • ‘Its most apposite characterisation is the archetypal image of ouroboros, the serpent that eats its own tail.’
    • ‘The image of an ouroboros appeared to German chemist, Friedrich August Kekule in a dream, inspiring his groundbreaking discovery of the chemical structure of the benzene molecule.’
    • ‘While critical of the inappropriate use of classical ornament, it was characteristic of Soane to have revived the use of the ancient symbol of eternity, the ouroboros, or snake biting its tail.’
    • ‘While many bowls show little sign of outside influence, others display the well-known motifs of ‘international’ magic - common divine names, familiar voces magicae, and symbols such as the ouroboros or the characteres.’
    • ‘Once again, I am reminded of the ouroboros, which is doomed to forever fight a battle - like the cinema ultimately must - between its own creation and its simultaneous self-destruction.’
    • ‘Like the ouroboros serpent of Ancient Egypt, the show will feast on itself to create an unbroken circle of self-cannibalism; autonomous, self-sustaining and utterly, terrifyingly unstoppable.’
    • ‘The ouroboros eats its own tail to sustain its life, in an eternal cycle of renewal.’


1940s: from Greek (drakōn) ouroboros (snake) devouring its tail.