The Greeks came up with the name, sphingein meaning, "to strangle" because their own similar images were purported to hold riddles that strangled those unable to decipher them. Carved out of rock, the Great Egyptian Sphinx of Gizeh is a lion with a man's head, beard and all, whom was said to have "haunted the Egyptian desert." To imagine how large the Egyptian sphinx is (187 ft long, 66 ft tall) picture the outdoor temple that existed between the paws of the lion's body. Other examples of composite monsters that could be called a sphinx have a jackal or a hawk's head and occasionally have wings. Usually but not exclusively, the sphinx depicts a male creature.
Suellen Ocean is the author of The Celtic Prince available at Amazon and B&N.