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What is a Nymph?

Updated on May 17, 2013

Water Nymph

water nymph By Maria Hase
water nymph By Maria Hase

What Is A Nymph?

A nymph is a mythological spirit in the form of a beautiful young woman. They are often depicted as mothers, heroes or lovers to gods. They are often very nurturing and take care of children when they are cast away from cities or families.

Nymphs are known to live in groves, mountains, rivers, springs, valleys and trees. Greek nymphs were bound to specific places where others could roam freely. They usually frequented areas that were distant from human civilization but lone travelers that were away from a village would often witness them bathing or dancing. Sometimes, they would even appear in the form of a whirlwind which could be a dangerous encounter and the traveler would often suffer from dumbness, infatuation, madness or even a stroke.

There are basically land nymphs, wood nymphs, water nymphs and then a few others that do not fall in any particular category.

Though we may not notice them as much they do show up in popular culture as well.

Creation Of A Water Nymphs


In Greek mythology, Dryads are the tree nymphs. They were generally considered to be extremely shy creatures unless they were around goddess Artemis who was a friend to all of the nymphs. Dryads of ash trees had a different name, being Meliai. These ash tree nymphs were the ones that tended to Zeus when his mother sent him away to keep him safe. Zeus' mother, Rhea, birthed the Meliai when she became fertile from her husband's blood after he was castrated. Dryads were tied to their homes and very long-lived. If a tree died, its nymph would die too so mortals that harmed trees were severely punished.


Nymphs of the Underworld fell in their own category and were called Lampads. They were companions of Hecate who was the Greek goddess of crossroads and witchcraft. The Lampads would carry torches and accompany Hecate to her nightly haunting. Supposedly, the light from their torches could drive you insane if you saw them.

Nymph and Satyr

Nymph and Satyr - National Gallery of Art Picture By BAR Photography
Nymph and Satyr - National Gallery of Art Picture By BAR Photography


The Naiads were nymphs that presided over springs, wells, brooks and streams. They were associated only with freshwater. Naiads were bound to their springs so if their water dried up, they would die. They were subjects of cults. Children who were coming of age would throw their childhood locks of hair into the spring and animals were drowned there out of ritual habits.

Frolicking Water Nymph

Water Nymph picture By sleepyheadimages
Water Nymph picture By sleepyheadimages


Echo was a famous Oread, or mountain nymph who was very much in love with her own voice. Zeus would often visit the beautiful nymphs and when his wife, Hera, would become suspicious and try to find him, Echo would distract her by telling her long stories. She was a wonderful dancer and singer.


The sea nymphs were named Nereid. They were the 50 daughters of Doris and Nerus and often accompanied Poseidon as well as other sailors during storms. The Nereid are primarily associated with the Aegean Sea where they all lived with their father in a silvery cave.

Disney Nymphs

Movie Nymphs

Today you can find nymphs in books and movies. Disney brings greek myths to life in the animated film Hercules. During the story, Hercules meets Phill, a satr, who is found oogleing several Nymphs.

In The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian young Lucy is waved at by a kind of tree nymph made up of pink petals.

Read closely in the Percy Jackson novels and you might find a snippet here and there about nymphs.

Showing that nymphs still pop up in our culture.

A Guide To Nymph Classification

Land Nymphs

  • · Alseids - Nymphs of groves and glens.
  • · Aulonaids – Nymphs of pastures.
  • · Hesperides – The daughters of Atlas and nymphs of the west.
  • · Leimakids – Nymphs of the meadows.
  • · Minthe – Nymphs of mint.
  • · Napaeae – Nymphs of mountain valleys.
  • · Oreads – Nymphs of the mountains.

Wood Nymphs

  • · Dryads – Nymphs of the trees.
  • · Hamdryads – Nymphs of oak trees.
  • · Epimeliad – Nymphs of apple trees.
  • · Leuce – Nymphs of white poplar trees.
  • · Meliae – Nymphs of manna-ash trees.

Water Nymphs

  • · Naiads – Nymphs of freshwater.
  • · Crinaeae – Nymphs of fountains.
  • · Hyades – Nymphs of rain.
  • · Limnades – Nymphs of lakes.
  • · Pegaeae – Nymphs of springs.
  • · Potameides – Nymphs of rivers.
  • · Corycian – Nymphs of the Corycian cave.
  • · Nereid – Nymphs of the Mediterranean sea.
  • · Oceanids – Nymphs of salt water.

Other Nymphs

  • · Nephalae – Nymphs of the clouds.
  • · Lampades – Nymphs of the Underworld.


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