cherub
Pronunciation
  • (RP, GA) enPR: chĕrʹəb, IPA: /ˈtʃɛɹəb/
Noun

cherub (plural cherubs)

  1. (biblical) A winged#Adjective|winged creature attending on God, described by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (circa2 5th–6th century) as the second high#Adjective|highest order#Noun|order of angels, rank#Verb|ranked above throne#Noun|thrones and below seraphim; similar to a lamassu in the pre-exilic text#Noun|texts of the Hebrew Bible, more humanoid in later texts.
    • [1526], [William Tyndale, transl.], The Newe Testamēt […] (Tyndale Bible), [Worms, Germany: Peter Schöffer], OCLC 762018299 ↗; republished as The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Published in 1526. […], London: Samuel Bagster, […], 1836, OCLC 679500256 ↗, The Pistle off Paul unto the Hebrues IX:[5], folio cxciiij, recto, page [486] ↗:
      Over the ark#English|arcke were the cherubyns off glory shadowynge the seate of grace.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, […], OCLC 964384981 ↗, Genesis 3:24 ↗:
      So he [God] droue out the man [Adam#English|Adam]: and he placed at the East of the garden of Eden, Cherubims, and a flaming ſword, which turned euery way, to keepe the way of the tree of life.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VII ↗”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708 ↗; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554 ↗, lines 197–199:
      About his Chariot numberleſs were pour'd / Cherub and Seraph, Potentates and Thrones, / And Vertues, winged Spirits, and Chariots wing'd, [...]
    • 1700, [John] Dryden, “To Her Grace the Dutchess of Ormond ↗”, in Fables Ancient and Modern; […], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, […], OCLC 228732415 ↗:
      O Daughter of the Roſe, [...] / Whoſe Face is Paradiſe, but fenc'd from Sin: / For God in either Eye has plac'd a Cherubin.
    • 1851 November 13, Herman Melville, “The Whiteness of the Whale”, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 57395299 ↗, page 210 ↗:
      But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in Heaven, when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and adoring cherubim!
  2. An artistic depiction of such a being#Noun|being, typically in the form of a winged child or a child's head#Noun|head with wing#Noun|wings but no body.
    Synonyms: amoretto, cupid, putto
    • 1831 October 30, [Mary Shelley], chapter I, in Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus (Standard Novels; IX), 3rd edition, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, […], OCLC 858441409 ↗, [https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=emu.000011593191;view=1up;seq=40 page 22]:
      When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall of our villa a child fairer than pictured cherub – a creature who seemed to shed radiance from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than the chamois of the hills.
  3. (figuratively) A person, especially a child, seen as being particularly angelic or innocent#Adjective|innocent.
    Synonyms: angel, innocent
    • c. 1603–1604, William Shakespeare, The Tragœdy of Othello, the Moore of Venice. […] (First Quarto), London: Printed by N[icholas] O[kes] for Thomas Walkley, […], published 1622, OCLC 724111485 ↗, [Act IV, scene ii], page 71 ↗:
      Patience, thou young and rose-lipp'd Cherubin.
    • c. 1605–1608, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Tymon of Athens”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act IV, scene iii], page 91 ↗, column 1:
      This fell whore of thine, / Hath in her more deſtruction then thy Sword, / For all her Cherubin looke.
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