Definition of viper in English:



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

    See also pit viper
    and See also adder
    • ‘Later, a viper snake came out of the wood and went toward St. Paul.’
    • ‘Looking closer she realised with horror that it was a snake, it was a poisonous viper.’
    • ‘I was in awe of her sharp intelligence, of the way her diplomacy could charm the fangs off a viper.’
    • ‘His researches cover tortoises and lizards, crocodiles and vipers, porpoises and whales.’
    • ‘We did one project on rainforest snakes, covering everything from constrictors to vipers.’
    • ‘Don't touch anything in the rainforest - you never know when the tiny but venomous eyelash viper might strike.’
    • ‘Disturbed that I had been reclining unsuspectingly with vipers, I became snake-paranoid.’
    • ‘It feels like I've grown a whole new skin - fresh, smooth and shiny as a baby viper's.’
    • ‘While human encounters with cobras, vipers, and pythons can prove fatal, more often than not it is the snakes that are killed.’
    • ‘In addition to finding ten more lizards and snakes, the scientists were thrilled to find an isolated population of vipers.’
    • ‘For centuries these Buddhist snake handlers have tattooed their bodies to protect themselves against the vipers and cobras that share their town.’
    • ‘According to a study conducted by SPCA in the area, there are kraits, cobras and vipers in the area.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The adder or viper is common throughout mainland Britain and some of the islands off the west coast of Scotland.’
    • ‘The dexterity with which the charmers handle deadly snakes such as cobras and vipers has added to the allure of the street-side performances.’
    • ‘Death adders are terrestrial elapids who superficially resemble vipers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There were other snakes in his collection; mambas, vipers, adders, boomslangs, vine snakes, sand snakes, pythons and other cobra species.’
    abuser, user
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    1. 1.1 A spiteful or treacherous person.
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘(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).’
      • ‘Which may be why the vipers in the political snake pit are rattling their rattles and baring those long, curved fangs.’
      • ‘Nearly 700 years later Jesus openly rebuked many religious leaders, calling them snakes and vipers.’
      • ‘Did we have idiots regulating morons or mice monitoring vipers?’
      • ‘Perhaps we will do so ourselves the next time we return to this pit of contending vipers.’
      • ‘Soon enough, this partnership produced a vipers ' nest writhing with snakes practicing bribery, extortion, drug dealing, and murder.’
      • ‘He sent five letters of warning to the York clergy about his impending crime calling them ‘serpents and vipers of Hell’.’
      • ‘I surrounded myself with vipers in human bodies.’
      • ‘By venturing into the pit of vipers we call the Body Politic, our Pagan leaders pay a price for our future.’
      traitor, turncoat, betrayer, informer, back-stabber, double-crosser, double-dealer, quisling, judas
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  • viper in one's bosom

    • A person whom one has supported but now behaves treacherously towards one.

      • ‘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?’
      • ‘A snake lurks in the haystack, a viper in her 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.’
      • ‘Were they not really warming a viper in their bosom?’
      • ‘Why nourish a viper in one's bosom, cultivate an adversary, possibly an enemy?’
      • ‘And you couldn't have that viper in your bosom.’
      • ‘For example, in the opening verse: ‘John said to [us who] came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers!’’
      • ‘Thank goodness one politician opposed their entry - or we could have this viper in our bosom!’
      • ‘Apparently he has been unconsciously nursing a viper in his bosom, for the same Science now ‘turns and strikes him.’’
      • ‘I have nourished a viper in my bosom.’


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