One entry found for siren.
Main Entry: si·ren
Pronunciation: primarystresssimacr-rschwan for sense 3 also simacr-primarystressremacronn
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English siren "a partly female creature in Greek legend whose beautiful singing lured sailors to their deaths," from early French siren and Latin siren (both, same meaning), from Greek seiremacronn (same meaning)
1 often capitalized : one of a group of womanlike creatures in Greek mythology that lured mariners to destruction by their singing
2 : a tempting woman
3 : a device often electrically operated for producing a loud shrill warning sound <ambulance siren>
Word History In the Greek epic poem The Odyssey, Homer tells of the adventures of Odysseus on his voyage home after the Trojan War. One of these adventures involves a couple of sea nymphs, called Sirens, who are half woman and half bird. They attract sailors by the beauty of their singing, which causes the ships to crash on the rocks. To avoid such a fate, Odysseus has his sailors' ears filled with wax so that they cannot hear the Sirens' song. He has himself tied to a mast so that he cannot steer the ship toward the rocks. It works. The ship succeeds in getting past the Sirens, who are then so upset that they drown themselves. The word siren lives on, however. It was taken into Latin, French, and English. It has been used for "a tempting woman," but its chief use is for "a loud-sounding warning device." Its sound is far from beautiful, but it does signal danger.


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