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.

Greek Mythology

Dance of the Nymphs (Part), Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

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).

Nymphs And Satyr Print by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nymphs and Satyr, William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nymph classifications

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

Land Nymphs

Alseids (glens, groves)

Auloniads (pastures)

Leimakids (meadows)

Oreads (mountains, grottoes)

Napaeae (mountain valleys, glens)

Greek Mythology


Water Nymphs

The Water Nymph Mareotis, Lake Mariout, Seated On A Stone Bench. Print by Philip Galle

The water nymph Mareotis, Lake Mariout, seated on a stone bench. Philip Galle

Greek Mythology

The waternymph, Herbert James Draper

Greek Mythology

The Water Nymph, John Collier

Oceanids (daughters of Oceanus, any water, usually salty)

Nereids (daughters of Nereus, the Mediterranean Sea)

Naiads (usually fresh water)


"Corycian Nymphs" (Classical Muses)

Lampades (Underworld, Hecate's companions)

Sphragitides, a surname of a class of prophetic nymphs on mount Cithaeron in Boeotia, where they had a grotto called sphragidion. (Plut. Aristid. 9 ; Pausanias ix. 3, in Plut. Sympos. i. 10.)

Greek Mythology

Nypmhs Mosaic

Foreign adaptations

The Greek nymphs were spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and the difficulty of transferring their cult may be seen in the complicated myth that brought Arethusa to Sicily. Among the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs 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, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The mythologies of classicizing Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cult 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.

Greek Mythology

Cave of the Storm Nymphs, 1903 , Sir Edward John Poynter (English, 1836-1919) Private collection

Greek Mythology

Centaur and Nymph, Franz von Stuck

Greek Mythology

Nymph and Satyr, Alexander Cabanel

Greek Mythology

Hylas and the Nymphs, Francesco Furini

Greek Mythology

Nymphs of Nysa, Julius LeBlanc Stewart

Greek Mythology

Faun and Nymph, Rodin

Nymph with a Scorpion

The Cave of the Storm Nymphs , Sir Edward Poynter 1903

Grafik18Greek Mythology

Archedemus o Theraios o Nympholyptos fradaisi Nymphon t antron exirgasato (Archedemus from Thera the nympholept decorated the cave on the advice of the nymphs) Cave in Vari

Greek Mythology

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