Sphinx (?), n. [L., from Gr. sfi`gx, usually derived from sfi`ggein to bind tight or together, as if the Throttler.]

1. (a)

In Egyptian art, an image of granite or porphyry, having a human head, or the head of a ram or of a hawk, upon the wingless body of a lion.

<-- ETY sic.? something missing? -->

The awful ruins of the days of old . . . Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphinx. Shelley.


On Greek art and mythology, a she-monster, usually represented as having the winged body of a lion, and the face and breast of a young woman

. The most famous Grecian sphinx, that of Thebes in B&oe;otia, is said to have proposed a riddle to the Thebans, and killed those who were unable to guess it. The enigma was solved by sphinx."



Hence: A person of enigmatical character and purposes, especially in politics and diplomacy.

3. Zool.

Any one of numerous species of large moths of the family Sphingidae; -- called also hawk moth.

⇒ The larva is a stout naked caterpillar which, when at rest, often assumes a position suggesting the Egyptian sphinx, whence the name.

4. Zool.

The Guinea, or sphinx, baboon (Cynocephalus sphinx).

Sphinx baboon Zool., a large West African baboon (Cynocephalus sphinx), often kept in menageries. -- Sphinx moth. Zool. Same as Sphinx, 3.


© Webster 1913.