Definition of viper in US English:



  • 1A venomous snake with large hinged fangs, typically having a broad head and stout body, with dark patterns on a lighter background.

    Family Viperidae: numerous genera and species. See also pit viper, adder

    • ‘Looking closer she realised with horror that it was a snake, it was a poisonous viper.’
    • ‘The book begins with a minor embassy official who is murdered by suffocation from a python, whilst sitting in a locked car full of poisonous spitting vipers, just in case the python gave up before completing the job.’
    • ‘These studies suggest that vipers are more responsive to chemical stimuli from envenomated mammalian tissue than they are to chemical cues produced by the prey itself.’
    • ‘Later, a viper snake came out of the wood and went toward St. Paul.’
    • ‘Disturbed that I had been reclining unsuspectingly with vipers, I became snake-paranoid.’
    • ‘We did one project on rainforest snakes, covering everything from constrictors to vipers.’
    • ‘According to a study conducted by SPCA in the area, there are kraits, cobras and vipers in the area.’
    • ‘While human encounters with cobras, vipers, and pythons can prove fatal, more often than not it is the snakes that are killed.’
    • ‘It feels like I've grown a whole new skin - fresh, smooth and shiny as a baby viper's.’
    • ‘In addition to finding ten more lizards and snakes, the scientists were thrilled to find an isolated population of vipers.’
    • ‘The adder or viper is common throughout mainland Britain and some of the islands off the west coast of Scotland.’
    • ‘I was in awe of her sharp intelligence, of the way her diplomacy could charm the fangs off a viper.’
    • ‘Another compound in the viper's venom acts as a diuretic, causing the rodent to urinate involuntarily as it runs, leaving a scented trail that the snake can follow.’
    • ‘His researches cover tortoises and lizards, crocodiles and vipers, porpoises and whales.’
    • ‘There were other snakes in his collection; mambas, vipers, adders, boomslangs, vine snakes, sand snakes, pythons and other cobra species.’
    • ‘The dexterity with which the charmers handle deadly snakes such as cobras and vipers has added to the allure of the street-side performances.’
    • ‘It's like that fairy tale where vipers and toads jump out of the mouth of the accursed mean little girl when she tries to speak.’
    • ‘Don't touch anything in the rainforest - you never know when the tiny but venomous eyelash viper might strike.’
    • ‘Death adders are terrestrial elapids who superficially resemble vipers.’
    • ‘For centuries these Buddhist snake handlers have tattooed their bodies to protect themselves against the vipers and cobras that share their town.’
    abuser, user
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    1. 1.1 A spiteful or treacherous person.
      • ‘By venturing into the pit of vipers we call the Body Politic, our Pagan leaders pay a price for our future.’
      • ‘Did we have idiots regulating morons or mice monitoring vipers?’
      • ‘Nearly 700 years later Jesus openly rebuked many religious leaders, calling them snakes and vipers.’
      • ‘Which may be why the vipers in the political snake pit are rattling their rattles and baring those long, curved fangs.’
      • ‘I surrounded myself with vipers in human bodies.’
      • ‘He sent five letters of warning to the York clergy about his impending crime calling them ‘serpents and vipers of Hell’.’
      • ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees… you are the sons of them that killed the prophets. You serpents, you generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?’
      • ‘Soon enough, this partnership produced a vipers ' nest writhing with snakes practicing bribery, extortion, drug dealing, and murder.’
      • ‘(They probably know a thing or two about taming snakes in the grass, not to mention argumentative asps and vexatious vipers, if you ask them nicely).’
      • ‘Perhaps we will do so ourselves the next time we return to this pit of contending vipers.’
      traitor, turncoat, betrayer, informer, back-stabber, double-crosser, double-dealer, quisling, judas
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  • viper in one's bosom

    • A person who betrays those who have helped them.

      • ‘Apparently he has been unconsciously nursing a viper in his bosom, for the same Science now ‘turns and strikes him.’’
      • ‘A snake lurks in the haystack, a viper in her bosom.’
      • ‘You remember the old story of the tender-hearted man, who placed a frozen viper in his bosom, and was stung by it when it became thawed?’
      • ‘For example, in the opening verse: ‘John said to [us who] came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers!’’
      • ‘Were they not really warming a viper in their bosom?’
      • ‘Why nourish a viper in one's bosom, cultivate an adversary, possibly an enemy?’
      • ‘I have nourished a viper in my bosom.’
      • ‘And you couldn't have that viper in your bosom.’
      • ‘Thank goodness one politician opposed their entry - or we could have this viper in our bosom!’
      • ‘‘If you will nurse a viper in your bosom of course he will sting you,’ said Aunt Polly in a letter which she took the trouble to write to the squire.’


Early 16th century: from French vipère or Latin vipera, from vivus ‘alive’ + parere ‘bring forth’.