1. Zoology A snake.
2. often Serpent In the Bible, the creature that tempted Eve, identified in Christian tradition with Satan.
3. A subtle, sly, or treacherous person.
4. A firework that writhes while burning.
5. Music A deep-voiced wind instrument of serpentine shape, used principally from the 1600s to the 1800s, about 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length and made of brass or wood.
6. Serpent Serpens.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin serpēns, serpent-, from present participle of serpere, to creep.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.