Definition of serpent in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsəːp(ə)nt/


1chiefly literary A large snake.
Example sentences
  • Join us each day for stories about serpents, from flying snakes to Vietnamese cobras and North American copperheads.
  • Hiding out in or near steamy rivers and swamps in South America east of the Andes from Colombia to Paraguay and also on the island of Trinidad, these semiaquatic serpents are the largest snakes in the world.
  • This story airs in the United States tonight on the National Geographic Channel's Five Days of Snakes - a series of programs about serpents, and the scientists and others who work with them.
1.1 (the Serpent) A biblical name for Satan (see Gen. 3, Rev. 20).
Example sentences
  • The story of Adam and Eve and the Serpent seemed a naïve myth.
  • Interstingly enough, in the Haggadah, the Serpent in the garden is actually in charge of the other creatures of the garden, and walks upright, and has hands.
  • A saxophone represents the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, which should give jazz bands pause!
1.2A dragon or other mythical snake-like reptile: fire-breathing, flying serpents
More example sentences
  • It's a snake-like serpent which came upon the landscape and created the rivers and streams and waterholes.
  • It had dragons and serpents and chimeras and gryphons and other fun creatures that I wish existed.
  • The dragon and the serpent flew into the clouds and it started to rain heavily.
2A sly or treacherous person, especially one who exploits a position of trust in order to betray it.
3 historical A bass wind instrument made of leather-covered wood in three U-shaped turns, with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and few keys.
Example sentences
  • Brass bands began as military bands in the 19th century, initially with keyed bugles, serpents, bass horns, and other keyed brass instruments, changing to valved brass once these became available.
  • An exception must be made for the occasions when the serpent is used to double the awesome Dies Irae at Requiem mass.


Middle English: via Old French from Latin serpent- 'creeping', from the verb serpere.

  • snake from Old English:

    Snakes take their name from the fact that they have no legs and crawl along the ground. The ancestor of snake is an ancient Germanic word that meant ‘to crawl or creep’. Serpent (Middle English) has a similar origin—it comes from Latin serpere, which also meant ‘to crawl or creep’. Yet another word with this original sense was Old English slink. You can describe a treacherous person as a snake in the grass, with the idea of a lurking danger. Snakes are associated with treachery not only in Genesis but in the 6th century bc fables of the Greek storyteller Aesop. In one of his stories a man finds a snake frozen with cold and puts it close to his chest to warm it up. As soon as the snake revives it bites him ( see also viper). Before the 17th century the equivalent phrase had featured toads, which were at one time thought to be poisonous—a treacherous person was called a pad in the straw (pad is an old dialect word for a toad). The current expression may have originated from a Latin poem by the Roman poet Virgil. The children's game Snakes and Ladders, called in the USA Chutes and Ladders, was first played at the end of the 19th century. It may be based on an ancient Indian game called Moksha Patamu, which was used to teach children about the Hindu religion—the good squares allowed a player to go to a higher level of life, whereas the evil ‘snakes’ sent them back through reincarnation to lower tiers of life.

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Line breaks: ser|pent

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