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A.Word.A.Day--sylph

Pronunciation RealAudio

sylph (silf) noun

1. A slender, graceful young woman.

2. Any of a race of mythological invisible beings who inhabit air, originally described in theories of Paracelsus.

[From New Latin sylpha, apparently a blend of sylva, variant of Latin silva (forest) + nymph.]

See more usage examples of sylph in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

"But alluring though the fitness industry looks, it is not without risks. The biggest is Britons' fond self-delusion that they are sleek sylphs." Losing a Beer Belly; The Economist (London, UK); Aug 12, 1995.

"Like an ugly duckling which has blossomed into a slender sylph, the compact convertible from Stuttgart has finally added some style to a fair amount of substance." Samuel Ee; New kind of SLeeK; The Business Times (Singapore); Mar 20, 2004.

A language is a river always on the move. Like pebbles in a meandering stream, words have their meanings shaped over time. The etymologies of words take us back thousands of years to our primitive selves. They tell us the core of what we were.

What is a 'female'? The word comes from Latin femina (she who suckles). A 'lady' is, literally, a loaf kneader, from Old English hlaf (loaf) + dige (kneader). A 'lord', in turn, was a loaf guard. Well, we've come a long way from those olden times. Today a 'lady' may well be commanding a spacecraft instead of kneading a loaf of bread. A 'lord' may be pushing a baby-stroller instead of guarding the loaf.

This week we focus on words to describe women.

-Anu Garg

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

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