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Definition: griffin, legendary creature from The Columbia Encyclopedia

in ancient and medieval legend, creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Its name also appears as griffon and gryphon. The griffin originated in ancient Middle Eastern legend and is often found in Persian sculpture and the decorative arts. Although its significance is obscure, it is often thought to have been a protective symbol, representing strength and vigilance.

Summary Article: griffin
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Mythical monster, the supposed guardian of hidden treasure, with the body, tail, and hind legs of a lion, and the head, forelegs, and wings of an eagle, though in classical times all four legs were those of a lion.

Griffins are often found in heraldry; for example, in the armorial crest of the City of London; two griffins on the Thames Embankment guard its western boundary.

The griffin often appears in architectural decoration and in heraldry. It is the oldest and most common of the outlandish monsters used as heraldic devices. When the head alone is borne, it can be distinguished from that of the eagle by the long tuft under the beak and the pointed ears. Belief in griffins apparently reached Europe from the East. An ancient Greek legend of their guarding gold in Scythia may have been based on the existence of gold mines in that region.

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