Adventures in Etymology: Griffin




Reason for Adventure

Two characters in two different books I was reading had the name Griffin – Mrs Griffin in The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, and Elder Griffin in Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. Also Griffins (Gryphons/Griffons) are ace 🙂 Definitions/Origins


Noun Classical Mythology.
A fabled monster, usually having the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
Also, griffon, gryphon.
1300–50; Middle English griffoun  < Middle French grifon  < Latin grȳphus  < Greek grȳp-  (stem of grȳ́ps ) curled, curved, having a hooked nose


Noun (in India and the East)
A newcomer, especially a white person from a Western country.
1785–95;  origin uncertain


1. a city in W Georgia. *Note: there is also a place called Griffin in Queensland, Australia*
2. a male given name.

griffin. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from website:

Online Etymology Dictionary Information

griffin (n.)

c.1200 (as a surname), from Old French grifon “a bird of prey,” also “fabulous bird of Greek mythology” (with head and wings of an eagle, body and hind quarters of a lion, believed to inhabit Scythia and guard its gold), from Late Latin gryphus, misspelling of grypus, variant of gryps (genitive grypos), from Greek gryps (genitive grypos) “curved, hook-nosed,” in reference to its beak.

Klein suggests a Semitic source, “through the medium of the Hittites,” and cites Hebrew kerubh “a winged angel,” Akkad. karibu, epithet of the bull-colossus (see cherub). The same or an identical word was used, with uncertain connections, in mid-19c. Louisiana to mean “mulatto” (especially one one-quarter or two-fifths white) and in India from late 18c. to mean “newly arrived European.”

Harper, D. (2012). Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from

7 thoughts on “Adventures in Etymology: Griffin

  1. angelicreader says:

    Ask me this question: If you could be any animal in the entire world, what would it be?

    You guessed it.

    It is like my favorite animal. Majestic, kinda royal, strong and of course it can fly!

    And like dragons I am convinced they exist 😉


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