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For the use of the term "nymph" in biology, see nymph (biology).

In Greek mythology, a nymph is any member of a large class of female nature spirits, sometimes bound to a particular location or landform. Nymphs often accompanied various gods and goddesses, and were the frequent target of lusty satyrs.

They are personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature. The Greek word νύμφη has "bride" and "veiled" among its meanings: hence, a married woman, and, in general, one of marriageable age. Others refer the word (and also Latin nubere and German Knospe) to a root expressing the idea of "swelling" (according to Hesychius, one of the meanings of νύμφη is "rose-bud"). The home of the nymphs is on mountains and in groves, by springs and rivers, in valleys and cool grottoes. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities, the huntress Artemis, the prophetic Apollo, the reveller and god of trees Dionysus, and with rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes (as the god of shepherds).

The different species of nymph were distinguished according to the different spheres of nature with which they were connected.


  1. Land Nymphs
    1. Alseids[?] (glens, groves)
    2. Auloniads[?] (pastures)
    3. Dryads (forests)
      1. Hamadryads (trees)
        1. Meliae (manna-ash trees)
    4. Ieimakids[?] (meadows)
    5. Oreads (mountains, grottoes)
    6. Napaeae (mountain valleys, glens)
  2. Water Nymphs
    1. Oceanids (any water, usually salty)
      1. Nereids (the Mediterranean Sea)
    2. Naiads (usually fresh water)
      1. Crinaeae (fountains)
      2. Limnades or Limnatides (lakes)
      3. Pegaeae (springs)
      4. Potameides[?] (rivers)
      5. Eleionomae[?] (marshes)
  3. Other
    1. "Corycian Nymphs" (Classical Muses)

The Greek nymphs, after the introduction of their cult into Latium, gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Cavmentis[?], Fons), while the Lymphae[?] (originally Lumpae), Italian water-goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of name, were identified with the Greek Nymphae. Among the Romans their sphere of influence was restricted, and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.

See also Askefruer, Huacas and Landvaettir.

from a 1911 encyclopedia

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