1. pl. sphinx·es or sphin·ges (sfĭnjēz′)
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.
2. pl. sphinxes A puzzling or mysterious person.
3. pl. sphinxes also sphinx Variant of sphynx.
[Middle English Spynx, from Latin Sphinx, from Greek.]
(click for a larger image)sphinx
detail of an early 5th-century bc black-figure lekythos showing Oedipus and the Sphinx
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus