From their origins in folktales to their current status as global celebrities, mermaids are an endless source of stories, emotions, and ideas. Come with us as we take a deep dive into five essential terms to understand the world of mermaids!
The word “mermaid” comes from the Middle English terms “mere” (sea, lake) and “maid” (young girl). Curiously enough, Germanic languages use similar constructions to refer to mermaids (“meerjungfrau” in German, “havfrue” in Norwegian, and “meermin” in Dutch). On the other hand, languages that come from Latin use derivates of the Greek word “seiren” (“sirena” in Spanish and Italian, “sirène” in French, and “sereia” in Portuguese).
More than a myth, mermaids are a cultural trend that feels more relevant than ever. If you need proof, just take a look at mermaiding, a new term that refers to the practice of dressing as a mermaid or merman, and sometimes even swimming with a costume mermaid tail. Mermaiding is an increasingly popular hobby that is being embraced by women and men of all ages all around the world, proving once again the strong grip of mermaids on our collective imagination.
This term refers to the mythical half-fish, half-human creatures that live under the sea, be it mermaids, mermen, or even merchildren. While mermaids are without a doubt the most famous, all these legendary beings have been part of the mythology of many cultures since ancient times.
Simply put, mermen are the male version of mermaids. While considerably less popular than mermaids, mermen also have a rich history, with the most illustrious example being the tritons of Ancient Greece and Rome. Tritons weren’t originally considered the male counterparts of mermaids, but they were later adopted as such in the popular imagination.
In a general sense, “water spirit” refers to any aquatic being that is part of the folklore of a culture. Water is essential to human life, so it’s no wonder that all kinds of people throughout history have attached elaborate myths to the seas and rivers that sustain their civilizations. Water spirits can be male or female; they can be playful and delicate, but also harsh and testy. While most water spirits remain part of local folktales with limited impact, you could make the case that mermaids are the water spirits of the world: they have become a global symbol of beauty that transcends backgrounds, languages, and cultures.
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As we have seen today, mermaids are a powerful symbol embedded into the very fabric of our collective history. But what do mermaids mean to you, personally? We look forward to learning more about your mermaid stories. Feel free to contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), telephone (626-353-7347), or through our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).