late 14c., "class of semi-divine female beings," from Old French nimphe (13c.), from Latin nympha "nymph, demi-goddess; bride, mistress, young woman," from Greek nymphe "bride, young wife," later "beautiful young woman," then "semi-divine being in the form of a beautiful maiden;" related to Latin nubere "to marry, wed" (see nuptial). Sub-groups include dryads, hamadryads, naiads, nereids, and oreads. Sense in English of "young woman, girl" is attested from 1580s. Meaning "insect stage between larva and adult" is recorded from 1570s. Related: Nymphal; nymphean.
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