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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
Grouping Mythological
Sub grouping Nature spirit
Country Greece

A nymph (Greek : νύμφη, nýmphē; Ancient: [nýmpʰɛː] , Modern: [nímfi] ) in ancient Greek folklore is a minor female nature deity. Different from Greek goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as personifications of nature, are typically tied to a specific place or landform, and are usually depicted as beautiful maidens. They were not necessarily immortal, but lived much longer than humans before they died. [1]


They are often divided into various broad subgroups, such as the Meliae (ash tree nymphs), the Naiads (freshwater nymphs), the Nereids (sea nymphs), and the Oreads (mountain nymphs). [2]

Nymphs are often featured in classic works of art, literature, mythology, and fiction. Since medieval times, nymphs have been sometimes popularly associated or even confused with fairies.


The Greek word νύμφη has the primary meaning of "young woman; bride, young wife" but is not usually associated with deities in particular. Yet the etymology of the noun νύμφη remains uncertain. The Doric and Aeolic (Homeric) form is νύμφα.

Modern usage more often applies to young women at the peak of their attractiveness, contrasting with parthenos (παρθένος) "a virgin (of any age)", and generically as kore (κόρη < κόρϝα) "maiden, girl". The term is sometimes used by women to address each other and remains the regular Modern Greek term for "bride".

Ancient Greek mythology

Nymphs were sometimes beloved by many and dwelt in specific areas related to the natural environment: e.g. mountainous regions; forests; springs. Other nymphs were part of the retinue of a god (such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan) or of a goddess (generally the huntress Artemis). [3]

The Greek nymphs were also spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci , and sometimes this produced complicated myths like the cult of Arethusa to Sicily. In some of the works of the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Carmentis, Fontus) while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of their names, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The classical mythologies of the Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cults of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class, their sphere of influence was restricted and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.[ citation needed ]

Greek folk religion

The ancient Greek belief in nymphs survived in many parts of the country into the early years of the twentieth century when they were usually known as "nereids". [4] Nymphs often tended to frequent areas distant from humans but could be encountered by lone travelers outside the village, where their music might be heard, and the traveler could spy on their dancing or bathing in a stream or pool, either during the noon heat or in the middle of the night. They might appear in a whirlwind. Such encounters could be dangerous, bringing dumbness, besotted infatuation, madness or stroke to the unfortunate human. When parents believed their child to be nereid-struck, they would pray to Saint Artemidos. [5] [6]

Nymphs and fairies

Nymphs are often depicted in classic works across art, literature, mythology, and fiction. They are often associated with the medieval romances or Renaissance literature of the elusive fairies or elves. [7] [8]

Sleeping nymph

The statue of a sleeping nymph in a grotto at Stourhead gardens, England. Stourhead, Grotto, statue of a sleeping nymph.jpg
The statue of a sleeping nymph in a grotto at Stourhead gardens, England.

A motif that entered European art during the Renaissance was the idea of a statue of a nymph sleeping in a grotto or spring. [9] [10] [11] This motif supposedly came from an Italian report of a Roman sculpture of a nymph at a fountain above the River Danube. [12] The report, and an accompanying poem supposedly on the fountain describing the sleeping nymph, are now generally concluded to be a fifteenth-century forgery, but the motif proved influential among artists and landscape gardeners for several centuries after, with copies seen at neoclassical gardens such as the grotto at Stourhead. [13] [14] [15]


All the names for various classes of nymphs have plural feminine adjectives, most agreeing with the substantive numbers and groups of nymphai. There is no single adopted classification that could be seen as canonical and exhaustive. [16] Some classes of nymphs tend to overlap, which complicates the task of precise classification. e.g. Dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees, and naiads as nymphs of water, but no others specifically. [16]

By type of dwelling

The following is not the authentic Greek classification, but is intended simply as a guide:

Classification by type of dwelling
Type / Group / IndividualsLocationRelations and Notes
Celestial nymphs
Aurae (breezes)also called Aetae or Pnoae[ citation needed ], daughters of Boreas [17]
Asteriae (stars)mainly comprising the Atlantides (daughters of Atlas)
1. Hesperides Far Westnymphs of the sunset, the West, and the evening; daughters of Atlas; also had attributes of the Hamadryads [18]
Aegle ditto
Arethusa ditto
Erytheia (or Eratheis)dittomother of Eurytion by Ares [19]
Hesperia (or Hispereia)ditto
2. Hyades (star cluster; sent rain)Boeotia (probably)daughters of Atlas by either Pleione or Aethra [20]
3. Pleiades Boeotia (probably)daughters of Atlas and Pleione; [21] constellation; also were classed as Oreads
Maia Mt. Cyllene, Arcadiapartner of Zeus and mother of Hermes [22]
Electra Mt. Saon, Samothracemother of Dardanus and Iasion by Zeus [23]
Taygete Taygetos Mts., Laconiamother of Lacedaemon by Zeus [24]
Alcyone Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotiamother of Hyperes and Anthas by Poseidon [25]
Celaeno Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotia or Euboeamother of Lycus and Nycteus by Poseidon [26]
Asterope Pisa, Elismother of Oenomaus by Ares [27]
Merope Corinthwife of Sisyphus and mother of Glaucus [28]
Nephele (clouds)daughters of Oceanus [29] and/or Tethys [30] or of Aither [31]
Land nymphs
Alseides (groves) [32]
Auloniades (valley pastures, glens)
Leimakides or Leimonides (meadows)
Napaeae (dells) [33]
Oreads (mountains, grottoes), also Orodemniades
Wood and plant nymphs
Anthousai (flowers)
Dryades (trees)
Hamadryades or Hadryades
1. Daphnaeae (laurel tree)
2. Epimeliades or Epimelides (apple tree; also protected flocks)other name variants include Meliades, Maliades and Hamameliades; same as these are also the Boucolai (Pastoral Nymphs)
3. Kissiae (ivy)
4. Meliae (manna-ash tree)born from the drops of blood that fell on Gaia when Cronus castrated Uranus [34]
Hyleoroi (watchers of woods)
Water nymphs (Hydriades or Ephydriades)
Haliae (sea and seashores)
1. Nereids Mediterranean Sea 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris [35]
Naiads or Naides (fresh water)
1. Crinaeae (fountains)
2. Eleionomae (wetlands)
3. Limnades or Limnatides (lakes)
4. Pegaeae (springs)
5. Potameides (rivers)
Tágides Tagus River
Oceanids daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, [36] any freshwater, typically clouds and rain. see List of Oceanids
Underworld nymphs
Lampades Hadestorch bearers in the retinue of Hecate
Orphne Hadesis a representation of the darkness of the river Styx, the river of hatred, but is not to be confused with the goddess Styx herself, but she is associated with both Styx and Nyx. She is the consort of Acheron, (the god of the river in Hades), and the mother of Ascalaphus, (the orchardist of Hades). [37]
Leuce (white poplar tree)Hadesdaughter of Oceanus and lover of Hades [38]
Minthe (mint)Cocytus Riverprobably a daughter of Cocytus, lover of Hades and rival of Persephone [39] [40]
Melinoe Hades Orphic nymph, daughter of Persephone and "Zeus disguised as Pluto". [41] Her name is a possible epithet of Hecate.
Other nymphs
Hecaterides (rustic dance)daughters of Hecaterus by a daughter of Phoroneus; sisters of the Dactyls and mothers of the Oreads and the Satyrs [42]
Kabeiridesdaughters of Cadmilus and sisters of the Kabeiroi [43] or of Hephaestus and Cabeiro [44]
Maenads or Bacchai or Bacchantesfrenzied nymphs in the retinue of Dionysus
1. Lenai (wine-press)
2. Mimallones (music)
3. Naides (Naiads)
4. Thyiai or Thyiades (thyrsus bearers)
Melissae (honey)likely a subgroup of Oreades or Epimelides

By location

The following is a list of groups of nymphs associated with this or that particular location. Nymphs in such groupings could belong to any of the classes mentioned above (Naiades, Oreades, and so on).

Location-specific groupings of nymphs
Groups and IndividualsLocationRelations and Notes
Aeaean Nymphs Aeaea Islandhandmaidens of Circe
AegaeidesAegaeus River on the island of Scheria
Aesepides Aesepus River in Anatolia
Abarbarea ditto
Acheloides Achelous River in Acarnania
Callirhoe, second wife of Alcmaeon ditto
AcmenesStadium in Olympia, Elis
Amnisiades Amnisos River on the island of Crete entered the retinue of Artemis
Anigrides Anigros River in Elis believed to cure skin diseases
Asopides Asopus River in Sicyonia and Boeotia
Aegina Island of Aegina mother of Menoetius by Actor, and Aeacus by Zeus
• Asopis
• Chalcis Chalcis, Euboea regarded as the mother of the Curetes and Corybantes; perhaps the same as Combe and Euboea below
• Cleone Cleonae, Argos
Combe Island of Euboeaconsort of Socus and mother by him of the seven Corybantes
Corcyra Island of Corcyra mother of Phaiax by Poseidon
Euboea Island of Euboeaabducted by Poseidon
• Gargaphia or Plataia or Oeroe Plataea, Boeotiacarried off by Zeus
• HarmoniaAkmonian Wood, near Themiscyra mother of the Amazons by Ares [45] [46]
Harpina Pisa, Elismother of Oenomaus by Ares
Ismene Ismenian spring of Thebes, Boeotiawife of Argus, eponymous king of Argus and thus, mother of Argus Panoptes and Iasus.
• Nemea Nemea, Argolis others called her the daughter of Zeus and Selene
• OrneaOrnia, Sicyon
Peirene Corinth others called her father to be Oebalus or Achelous by Poseidon she became the mother of Lecheas and Cenchrias
Salamis Island of Salamis mother of Cychreus by Poseidon
Sinope Sinope, Anatolia mother of Syrus by Apollo
• Tanagra Tanagra, Boeotiamother of Leucippus and Ephippus by Poemander
Thebe Thebes, Boeotiawife of Zethus and also said to have consorted with Zeus
• Carmentis,or Carmenta Arcadia She had a son with Hermes, called Evander. Her son was the founder of the Pallantium. Pallantium became one of the cities that was merged later into the ancient Rome. Romans called her, Carmenta. [47]
• Thespeia Thespia, Boeotiaabducted by Apollo
AstakidesLake Astacus, Bithynia appeared in the myth of Nicaea
Nicaea Nicaea, Bithynia
Asterionides Asterion River, Argos daughters of the river god Asterion; nurses of the infant goddess Hera
Acraea ditto
Euboea ditto
• Prosymnaditto
Carian Naiades (Caria)Caria
Salmacis Halicarnassus, Caria
Nymphs of Ceos Island of Ceos
Corycian Nymphs (Corycian Cave) Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocis daughters of the river god Pleistos
Kleodora (or Cleodora) Mt. Parnassus, Phocismother of Parnassus by Poseidon
Corycia Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocismother of Lycoreus by Apollo
• Daphnis Mt. Parnassus, Phocis
Melaina Dephi, Phocismother of Delphos by Apollo
CydnidesRiver Cydnus in Cilicia
Cyrenaean NymphsCity of Cyrene, Libya
Cypriae NymphsIsland of Cyprus
Cyrtonian NymphsTown of Cyrtone, Boeotia Κυρτωνιαι
Deliades Island of Delos daughters of Inopus, god of the river Inopus
DodonidesOracle at Dodona
ErasinidesErasinos River, Argosdaughters of the river god Erasinos; attendants of the goddess Britomartis.
Anchiroe ditto
• Byzeditto
Maera ditto
Melite ditto
Nymphs of the river Granicus River Granicusdaughters of the river-god Granicus
Alexirhoe dittomother of Aesacus by Priam
• Pegasisdittomother of Atymnios by Emathion
Heliades River Eridanos daughters of Helios who were changed into trees
Himeriai NaiadesLocal springs at the town of Himera, Sicily
Hydaspides Hydaspers River, Indianurses of infant Zagreus
Idaean Nymphs Mount Ida, Cretenurses of infant Zeus
• Idaditto
Adrasteia ditto
Inachides Inachos River, Argosdaughters of the river god Inachus
Io dittomother of Epaphus by Zeus
Amymone ditto
Philodice dittowife of Leucippus of Messenia by whom she became the mother of Hilaeira, Phoebe and possibly Arsinoe
• Messeisditto
• Hyperiaditto
Mycene dittowife of Arestor and by him probably the mother of Argus Panoptes; eponym of Mycenae
Ionides Kytheros River in Elis daughters of the river god Cytherus
• Calliphaeaditto
• Iasisditto
• Pegaeaditto
• Synallaxisditto
Ithacian NymphsLocal springs and caves on the island of Ithaca
Ladonides Ladon River
Lamides or Lamusides Lamos River in Cilicia possible nurses of infant Dionysus
LeibethridesMounts Helicon and Leibethrios in Boeotia; or Mount Leibethros in Thrace)
• Libethrias
• Petra
Lelegeides Lycia, Anatolia
Lycaean NymphsMount Lycaeus nurses of infant Zeus, perhaps a subgroup of the Oceanides
Melian NymphsIsland of Melos transformed into frogs by Zeus; not to be confused with the Meliae (ash tree nymphs
MycalessidesMount Mycale in Caria, Anatolia
Mysian NymphsSpring of Pegai near Lake Askanios in Bithynia who abducted Hylas
• Euneica
• Malis
• Nycheia
Naxian NymphsMount Drios on the island of Naxos nurses of infant Dionysus; were syncretized with the Hyades
• Cleide
• Coronis
• Philia
Neaerides Thrinacia Islanddaughters of Helios and Neaera, watched over Helios' cattle
NymphaeidesNymphaeus River in Paphlagonia
Nysiads Mount Nysa nurses of infant Dionysos, identified with Hyades
Ogygian NymphsIsland of Ogygia four handmaidens of Calypso
Ortygian NymphsLocal springs of Syracuse, Sicily named for the island of Ortygia
OthreidesMount Othrys a local group of Hamadryads
Pactolides Pactolus River
Euryanassa, wife of Tantalus
PelionidesMount Pelion nurses of the Centaurs
Phaethonidesa synonym for the Heliades
Phaseides Phasis River
Rhyndacides Rhyndacus River in Mysia
SithnidesFountain at the town of Megara
SpercheidesRiver Spercheios one of them, Diopatra, was loved by Poseidon and the others were changed by him into trees
Sphragitides, or CithaeronidesMount Cithaeron
Tagids, Tajids, Thaejids or ThaegidsRiver Tagus in Portugal and Spain
Thessalides Peneus River in Thessaly
Thriae Mount Parnassos prophets and nurses of Apollo
Trojan NymphsLocal springs of Troy


The following is a selection of names of the nymphs whose class was not specified in the source texts. For lists of Naiads, Oceanids, Dryades etc. see respective articles.

Individual names of some of the nymphs
NamesLocationRelations and Notes
Alphesiboea Indialoved by Dionysus [48]
Aora Crete eponym of the town Aoros in Crete [49]
Areia Cretedaughter of Cleochus and mother of Miletus by Apollo [50]
Astyoche one of the Danaïdes, and the mother of Chrysippus by Pelops. [51]
Axioche or DanaisElismother of Chrysippus by Pelops [52] [53]
BrettiaMysiaeponym of Abrettene, Mysia [54]
Brisabrought up the god Dionysus [55]
Calybe Troymother of Bucolion, Laomedon [56]
Chalceamother of Olympus by Zeus [57]
Chaniaa lover of Heracles
Chariclo Thebesmother of Tiresias by Everes [58]
Charidiamother of Alchanus by Zeus [57]
Chryse Lemnos fell in love with Philoctetes [59]
Cirrha Phociseponym of Cirrha in Phocis [60]
Clymene mother of Tlesimenes by Parthenopaeus [61]
Cretheisbriefly mentioned in Suda [62]
CrimisaItalyeponym of a city in Italy [63]
Deiopeaone of Hera's nymphs who was promised to Aeolus [64]
Dodone Dodona eponym of Dodona [65]
EchemeiaCosspelled "Ethemea" by Hyginus, consort of Merops [66]
Eidothea Mt. Othrys mother by Eusiros of Cerambus [67]
Eunoë Phrygiapossible mother of Hecuba by Dymas [68]
EunosteBoeotia (possibly)nurse of Eunostus [69]
Euryte Athensmother of Halirrhothius by Poseidon [70]
Hegetoria Rhodes consort of Ochimus [71]
Hemeramother of Iasion by Zeus
Himalia Rhodesmother of Cronius, Spartaios, and Cytos by Zeus [72]
Hyalebelongs to the train of Artemis [73]
Hyllis Argos possible eponym of the tribe Hylleis and the city Hylle [74]
Idaea Cretemother of Cres [75] and Asterion [57] by Zeus
Idaea Mt. Ida, Troadmother of Teucer by Scamander [76]
IthomeMesseniaone of the nurses of Zeus [77]
Laodice Argolis (possibly)mother of Apis by Phoroneus [78]
LeucophryneMagnesia (possibly)priestess of Artemis Leucophryne
Linosmother of Pelops by Atlas in some accounts [79]
Lotis pursued by Priapus and was changed into a tree that bears her name [80]
Manymph in the suite of Rhea who nursed Zeus
Melanippe Attica (possibly)married Itonus, son of Amphictyon. [81]
Melissa Cretenurse of Zeus [82]
MendeisThraceconsort of Sithon [83]
Menodicedaughter of Orion and mother of Hylas by Theiodamas [84]
MyrmexAtticabeloved companion of Athena whom she turned into an ant [85]
NacolePhrygiaeponym of Nacoleia in Phrygia [86]
NeaeraThrinaciamother of Lampetia and Phaethusa by Helios [87]
Neaeramother of Aegle by Zeus[ citation needed ]
NeaeraLydiamother of Dresaeus by Theiodamas [88]
NympheSamothracemother of Saon by Zeus [89]
Oeneismother of Pan by Hermes [90]
OinoieSicinusmother of Sicinus by Thoas [91]
OlbiaBithyniamother of Astacus by Poseidon [92]
Paphiapossibly the mother of Cinyras by Eurymedon [93]
PareiaParosmother of four sons by Minos [94]
Polydora one of the Danaïdes [95]
Pyroniamother of Iasion by Minos
Psalacantha Icariachanged into a plant by Dionysus [96]
Rhene Mt. Cyllene, Arcadiaconsorted with Oileus [97]
Semestra Thracenurse of Keroessa [98]
SinoeArcadianurse of Pan [99]
Teledice Argolis (possibly)a consort of Phoroneus [100]
Thalia Sicilymother of the Palici by Zeus [101]
Thisbe Boeotiaeponym of the town of Thisbe [102]
Tithorea Mt. Parnassus, Phociseponym of the town of Tithorea (previously called Neon) [103]

In non-Greek tales influenced by Greek mythology

See also

Related Research Articles


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In Greek mythology, Cinna was the wife of King Phoroneus of Argos by whom she became the mother of Apis and Niobe. Otherwise, the consort(s) of Phoroneus was identified either as the nymph Cerdo or Teledice also a nymph, or Perimede, or first to Peitho and second to Europe.


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  56. 1 2 3 Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 10.21–23
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  59. Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 10.37.5
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  66. Antoninus Liberalis. Metamorphoses, 22 vs Cerambus
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  89. Scholiast ad Theocritus, 1.3
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  95. Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History 5 in Photius, Myrobiblion 190
  96. Homer, Iliad 2.728
  97. Dionysius of Byzantium, Anaplous of the Bosporos, §24
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  101. Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 9.32.3
  102. Pausanias, Graeciae Descriptio 10.32.9