1. (Science: zoology) Any reptile of the order ophidia; a snake, especially a large snake.
The serpents are mostly long and slender, and move partly by bending the body into undulations or folds and pressing them against objects, and partly by using the free edges of their ventral scales to cling to rough surfaces. Many species glide swiftly over the ground, some burrow in the earth, others live in trees. A few are entirely aquatic, and swim rapidly. See ophidia, and fang.
2. A subtle, treacherous, malicious person.
3. A species of firework having a serpentine motion as it passess through the air or along the ground.
4. (Science: astronomy) The constellation serpens.
5. A bass wind instrument, of a loud and coarse tone, formerly much used in military bands, and sometimes introduced into the orchestra; so called from its form.
(Science: chemistry) Pharaoh’s serpent, mercuric sulphocyanate, a combustible white substance which in burning gives off a poisonous vapor and leaves a peculiar brown voluminous residue which is expelled in a serpentine from. It is employed as a scientific toy.
(Science: Botany) Serpent cucumber, any species of african serpents belonging to the family Dendrophidae.
Origin: F, fr. L. Serpens, -entis (sc. Bestia), fr. Serpens, p. Pr. Of serpere to creep; akin to Gr, Skr. Sarp, and perhaps to L. Repere, E. Reptile. Cf. Herpes.