nounpl. sphinx′es or sphin′ges·
- Gr. Myth.
- a winged monster with a lion's body and the head and breasts of a woman
- [S-] a sphinx at Thebes that strangles passersby who are unable to guess its riddle
- any ancient Egyptian statue or figure having, typically, the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk
- [S-] a huge statue having the body of a lion and the head of a man, at Gîza, near Cairo, Egypt
- a person who is difficult to know or understand
- Zool. hawk moth
Origin of sphinxMiddle English spynx from Classical Latin sphinx from Gr, literally , the strangler from sphingein: see sphincter
- pl. sphinx·es, or sphin·ges a. Mythology A figure in Egyptian myth having the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.b. often Sphinx Greek Mythology A winged creature having the head of a woman and the body of a lion, noted for killing those who could not answer its riddle.
- pl. sphinxes A puzzling or mysterious person.
- pl. sphinxes, also sphinx Variant of sphynx
Origin of sphinxMiddle English Spynx from Latin Sphinx from Greek
detail of an early 5th-century bc black-figure lekythos showing Oedipus and the Sphinx
(plural sphinxes or sphinges)
(third-person singular simple present sphinxes, present participle sphinxing, simple past and past participle sphinxed)
- To decorate with sphinxes
- a marble sphinxed chimney-piece
- To adopt the posture of the Sphinx.
- A hot lion with a very bloated stomach ... will adopt either a sphinxed or a squatting posture which takes some of the weight off its belly.
- Several animals maintained either a crouched ... or a sphinxing posture (abdomen on the flo)
- To be inscrutable, often through silence
- (1900) The sphinxÃ¨d riddle of the Universe / Nature's unsolved enigma, who may prove?
- (1933) Janet Gaynor, so they tell, is sphinxing it and has gone into a Retirement, with "Nothing to Say "” Please Go Away" written on the doormat.
- (1934) The men of science will climb grassy hillsides of [Easter] island to peer at hundreds of great stone faces that have so far out-sphinxed the sphinx in determined silence about the past.
- (1954) "What are you two sphinxing about?" said Jessica, but her husband said Never mind
- (1964) What with Fisher whole-hogging on one side, and K. of K. sphinxing on the other, Churchill had his work cut out to get any sort of agreement at all.
- To make one guess at the unknowable
- (1933) Perhaps Nature is sphinxing us on purpose. Whatever her objects may be, perhaps she gets her work done better when she appeals to our gambling instincts. If you knew for certain exactly how your marriage was going to turn out ...
- To befuddle
- (2010) She swiveled and sphinxed Giles. 'And you, I suppose you've never been here either?' Giles squirmed. 'Well, I - that is, Miss Wh"”, I mean, Miss Taylor, I -' He looked to me for rescue.
- For the feminine to co-opt, dominate, or devour the masculine, especially from a paranoid fear of this happening
- (1986) modernism's fears of being sphinxed by a feminized mass culture
From Middle English Spynx, from Latin Sphinx, from Ancient Greek Î£Ï†Î¯Î³Î¾ (SphÃnx). Perhaps from ÏƒÏ†Î¯Î³Î³Ï‰ (sphingo, “to squeeze, to strangle"), or from Egyptian Szp-'nx (shesp-ankh) 'divine image', literally, 'living image'.
- (usually with "the") An ancient, large statue in Egypt, with the face of a man and the body of a lion, lying near the Great Pyramids.
- (Greek mythology) One of the many offspring of Typhon and Echidna, a winged lion-like creature with a woman's face, who commited suicide out of frustration after Oedipus managed to solve her riddles.