Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15.jpg
In this 1896 painting of Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse, Hylas is abducted by the Naiads, i.e. fresh water nymphs
Sub groupingNature spirit
Similar creaturesMermaid, huldra, selkie, siren
MythologyGreek mythology

A nymph (Greek: νύμφη, nýmphē [nýmpʰɛː]) in Greek mythology is a minor female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform.

Different from other goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis. They are beloved by many and dwell in mountainous regions and forests by springs or rivers; as Walter Burkert (Burkert 1985:III.3.3) remarks, "The idea that rivers are gods and springs divine nymphs is deeply rooted not only in poetry but in belief and ritual; the worship of these deities is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality."Other nymphs, always in the shape of young maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis.[1] Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs.


The Greek word νύμφη has the primary meaning of "nubile young woman; bride, young wife" and is not associated with deities in particular. It refers to young women at the peak of sexual attractiveness, contrasting with parthenos (παρθένος) "a virgin (of any age)", and generic kore (κόρη < κόρϝα) "maiden, girl". The term is used by (human) women to address each other, so Iris addressing Helen, or Eurycleia addressing Penelope as νύμφα φίλη "dear nymph" (Il. 3.130, Od. 4.743). Reduced to νύφη, the word remains the regular Modern Greek term for "bride". In Katharevousa, it is still νύμφη, as in the refrain of the Marian hymn Agni Parthene (c. 1880), χαῖρε νύμφη ἀνύμφευτε "hail, unwedded bride".[2]

The Doric and Aeolic (Homeric) form is νύμφα. The Iliad (6.420) refers to "mountain nymphs, maidens of Zeus":

ἠδ᾽ ἐπὶ σῆμ᾽ ἔχεεν: περὶ δὲ πτελέας ἐφύτευσαν / νύμφαι ὀρεστιάδες κοῦραι Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο. [Il. 6.419f.]
"He [Achilles] heaped over him [Eetion] a barrow, and all about were elm-trees planted / by mountain-nymphs, maidens of Zeus the aegis-bearer."

The divine nymphs are called θεαὶ Νύμφαι "the nubile goddesses" in Il. 24.616. In mystical theology, the term is applied to souls seeking re-birth. The derived verb νυμφεύω means "to marry (of a woman)" (with dative), "to give in marriage (of the bride's father)" or "to marry (of the husband)" (with accusative).

The etymology of the noun νύμφη is not certain. It has been compared to Latin nubere "to wed", as derived from a word for "veil, cover", root cognate with Greek νέφος, Latin nubes ("cloud"), Greek νεφέλη, Latin nebula ("mist, vapor"), and Latin nimbus ("cloud cover"). This is not generally accepted. Beekes argues for a pre-Greek origin of the word.[citation needed] An alternative suggestion[by whom?] connects a word for "to bud, swell", from the root of German Knospe) "bud".[citation needed] This is informed by a gloss of Hesychius which gives "rose-bud" as a meaning of νύμφη.[citation needed]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Nimf
العربية: حوراء
aragonés: Ninfa
asturianu: Ninfa
azərbaycanca: Nimfalar
беларуская: Німфы
български: Нимфа
bosanski: Nimfa
brezhoneg: Nimfezed
català: Nimfa
čeština: Nymfy
Cymraeg: Nymff
Deutsch: Nymphe
eesti: Nümfid
Ελληνικά: Νύμφες
español: Ninfa
Esperanto: Nimfoj
euskara: Ninfa
فارسی: نیمف
français: Nymphe
한국어: 님프
հայերեն: Նիմփաներ
hrvatski: Nimfa
Ido: Nimfo
Bahasa Indonesia: Nimfa
italiano: Ninfe
עברית: נימפה
ქართული: ნიმფა
қазақша: Нимфалар
Latina: Nympha
latviešu: Nimfa
Lëtzebuergesch: Nymph
lietuvių: Nimfa
magyar: Nimfák
македонски: Нимфа
नेपाली: परी
日本語: ニュンペー
norsk nynorsk: Nymfe
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Nimfalar
polski: Nimfy
português: Ninfas
русский: Нимфа
Scots: Nymph
shqip: Nimfat
Simple English: Nymph
slovenčina: Nymfa (mytológia)
slovenščina: Nimfa
српски / srpski: Нимфа
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Nimfe
suomi: Nymfi
svenska: Nymf
ไทย: นิมฟ์
Türkçe: Nemf
українська: Німфи
اردو: حسینہ
Tiếng Việt: Thần nữ
中文: 宁芙
Lingua Franca Nova: Nimfa