sphinx

[sfingks]
noun, plural sphinxes, sphinges [sfin-jeez] .
1.
a.
a figure of an imaginary creature having the head of a man or an animal and the body of a lion.
b.
(usually initial capital letter) the colossal recumbent stone figure of this kind near the pyramids of Giza.
2.
(initial capital letter) Classical Mythology. a monster, usually represented as having the head and breast of a woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. Seated on a rock outside of Thebes, she proposed a riddle to travelers, killing them when they answered incorrectly, as all did before Oedipus. When he answered her riddle correctly the Sphinx killed herself.
3.
any similar monster.
4.
a mysterious, inscrutable person or thing, especially one given to enigmatic questions or answers.

Origin:
1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin < Greek sphínx, equivalent to sphing-, base of sphíngein to hold tight (cf. sphincter) + -s nominative singular ending

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World English Dictionary
sphinx (sfɪŋks)
 
n , pl sphinxes, sphinges
1.  any of a number of huge stone statues built by the ancient Egyptians, having the body of a lion and the head of a man
2.  an inscrutable person

Sphinx (sfɪŋks)
 
n
1.  Greek myth a monster with a woman's head and a lion's body. She lay outside Thebes, asking travellers a riddle and killing them when they failed to answer it. Oedipus answered the riddle and the Sphinx then killed herself
2.  the huge statue of a sphinx near the pyramids at El Gîza in Egypt, of which the head is a carved portrait of the fourth-dynasty Pharaoh, Chephrēn
 
[C16: via Latin from Greek, apparently from sphingein to hold fast]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

sphinx
c.1421, "monster of Gk. mythology," from L. Sphinx, from Gk. Sphinx, lit." the strangler," a back-formation from sphingein "to squeeze, bind" (see sphincter). Monster, having a lion's (winged) body and a woman's head, that waylaid travelers around Thebes and devoured those
who could not answer its questions; Oedipus solved the riddle and the Sphinx killed herself. The proper plural would be sphinges. Transf. sense of "person or thing of mysterious nature" is from 1610. In the Egyptian sense (usually male and wingless) it is attested from 1579; specific reference to the colossal stone one near the pyramids as Giza is attested from 1613.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary
Sphinx [(sfingks)]

In the story of Oedipus, a winged monster with the head of a woman and the body of a lion. It waylaid travelers on the roads near the city of Thebes and would kill any of them who could not answer this riddle: “What creatures walk on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” Oedipus finally gave the correct answer: human beings, who go on all fours as infants, walk upright in maturity, and in old age rely on the “third leg” of a cane.

Note: The sphinx of Greek mythology resembles the sphinx of Egyptian mythology but is distinct from it (the Egyptian sphinx had a man's head). (See under “Fine Arts.”)
Sphinx [(sfingks)]

A great sculpture carved from the rock near the Egyptian pyramids in about 2500 b.c. It depicts a creature from Egyptian mythology with the head of a man and the body of a lion. (See under “Mythology and Folklore.”)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences for Sphinx
The satyr play that followed the trilogy was called the sphinx.
Image for Sphinx
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