In Greek mythology, a nymph is any member of a large class of female nature entities, either bound to a particular location or landform or joining the retinue of a god or goddess. Nymphs were the frequent target of lusty satyrs.
"The idea that rivers are gods and springs divine nymphs," Walter Burkert remarks (Burkert III.3.3) "is deeply rooted not only in poetry but in belief and ritual; the worship of these deities is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality." Nymphs are personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature, most often identified with the life-giving outflow of springs. The Greek word νύμφη has "bride" and "veiled" among its meanings: hence, a marriagable young woman. Other readers refer the word (and also Latin nubere and German Knospe) to a root expressing the idea of "swelling" (according to Hesychius of Alexandria, one of the meanings of νύμφη is "rose-bud"). The home of the nymphs is on mountains and in groves, by springs and rivers, in valleys and cool grottoes. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities, the huntress Artemis, the prophetic Apollo, the reveller and god of trees Dionysus, and with rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes (as the god of shepherds).
The symbolic marriage with a nymph of a patriarchal leader, often the eponym of a people, is repeated endlessly in Greek origin myths; clearly such a union lent authority to the archaic king and to his line.