SYLPH, an imaginary spirit of the air; according to Paracelsus, the first modern writer who uses the word, an air-elemental, coming between material and immaterial beings. In current .usage, the term is applied to a feminine spirit or fairy, and is often used in a figurative sense of a graceful, slender girl or young woman. The form of the word points to a Greek origin, and Aristotle's <riX$ij, a kind of beetle (Hist. anim. 8. 17. 8), has usually been taken as the source. Similarly, the earthelementals or earth-spirits were in Paracelsus's nomenclature, " gnomes " (Gr. 'yvt^firj, intelligence, yiyv&aKuv, to know) as being the spirits that gave the secrets of the earth to mortals. Littre, however, takes the word to be Old Celtic, and meaning " genius," and states that it occurs in such forms as sulfi, sylfi, etc., in inscriptions, or latinized as sulevae or suleviae.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)