sylph

[silf]
noun
1.
a slender, graceful woman or girl.
2.
(in folklore) one of a race of supernatural beings supposed to inhabit the air.

Origin:
1650–60; < Neo-Latin sylphēs (plural), coined by Paracelsus; apparently blend of sylva (variant spelling of Latin silva forest) and Greek nýmphē nymph

sylphic, adjective
sylphlike, adjective


2. Sylph, salamander, undine (nymph ), gnome were imaginary beings inhabiting the four elements once believed to make up the physical world. All except the gnomes were female. Sylphs dwelt in the air and were light, dainty, and airy beings. Salamanders dwelt in fire: “a salamander that … lives in the midst of flames” (Addison). Undines were water spirits: By marrying a man, an undine could acquire a mortal soul. (They were also called nymphs though nymphs were ordinarily minor divinities of nature who dwelt in woods, hills, and meadows as well as in waters.) Gnomes were little old men or dwarfs, dwelling in the earth: ugly enough to be king of the gnomes.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
sylph (sɪlf)
 
n
1.  a slender graceful girl or young woman
2.  any of a class of imaginary beings assumed to inhabit the air
 
[C17: from New Latin sylphus, probably coined from Latin silva wood + Greek numphēnymph]
 
'sylphlike
 
adj
 
'sylphic
 
adj
 
'sylphish
 
adj
 
'sylphy
 
adj

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

sylph
1650s, from Mod.L. sylphes (pl.), coined 16c. by Paracelsus (1493-1541), originally referring to any race of spirits inhabiting the air, described as being mortal but lacking a soul. Paracelsus' word seems to be an arbitrary coinage, but perhaps it holds a suggestion of L. sylva and Gk. nymph. The meaning
"slender, graceful girl" first recorded 1838, on the notion of "light, airy movements." Silphid (1670s) are the younger or smaller variety, from Fr. sylphide (1671).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

sylph

an imaginary or elemental being that inhabits the air and is mortal but soulless. The existence of such beings was first postulated by the medieval physician Paracelsus, who associated a different being with each of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Compare gnome; undine.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
We always think of fat people as heavy, but he could have danced against a sylph.
As a rule, the nimble sylph depends entirely upon its pinions for support.
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