Definition of clepsydra in English:


nounclepsydras, clepsydrae

  • An ancient time-measuring device worked by a flow of water.

    • ‘Further back, the Chinese and the Romans used clepsydras (water clocks) at about the same time, although Egyptian sundials go further back.’
    • ‘Of course the sun could not be used to tell the time at night and clepsydras or water clocks were in use in Egypt by 1500 BC.’
    • ‘The device they used to ensure fairness was the clepsydra - ‘captured water’ - and was a simple jar with a hole.’
    • ‘He designed a lotus clepsydra, that is a water clock which had a bowl shaped like a lotus flower on the top into which water dripped.’
    • ‘He did this with a clepsydra, a vessel with a hole in the bottom and one in the top.’


Late Middle English via Latin from Greek klepsudra, based on kleptein ‘steal’ + hudōr ‘water’.