Word of the Day

mermaid

Definition

an imaginary sea creature that has the upper body of a woman and a fish’s tail

Origin and usage

The word mermaid dates to the mid-14th century word ‘mermayde’ which literally meant ‘maid of the sea’. The word is formed from the Middle English words ‘mere’ meaning ‘a sea or lake’ and the 12th century word ‘maid’. This is a shortened form of the word ‘maiden’ that was used to describe a young unmarried woman.



Examples

Mermaid is used to describe a mythical creature that is said to live in the ocean. In stories, a mermaid is usually described as a beautiful young woman with a tail instead of legs.

Stories and legends about mermaids have been around for thousands of years in nearly every culture, from Babylon to ancient Greece, Hinduism to Norse and Celtic mythology. Some mermaid characters from global folklore include selkies, Marakihau, Melusine, merrows, ningyo, rusalka and finfolk.

Mermaids have long fascinated storytellers. Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish writer best known for his fairy tales, wrote The Little Mermaid, one of his best-known stories, in 1837. Mermaids also appear in Homer’s Odyssey, two books of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and many more books, stories, plays, films, television shows, myths, legends and folktales.

Despite the popularity of mermaid stories in so many different cultures around the world, science has never proven the existence of these magical, mysterious creatures. Mermaids only live in our imaginations.

Quotations

“Clark Gable was the first to have called me a mermaid.”
(Esther Williams)

“I just love mermaids. I was a mermaid in my past life. I just feel it when I go in the sea. I just feel a connection there between me, and the water, and the fish – they speak to me – and the shells – they ring out to me.”
(Ella Henderson)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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