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MERMAID

[noun]

the common name for a fabled aquatic creature, typically depicted with the head and torso of a girl or woman, and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore, literature and popular culture of many countries worldwide. The masculine equivalent is called a “merman”, and the general terms “merfolk” or “merpeople” are occasionally used to refer to groups without reference to gender.

“Mermaid” is a compound of mere, the Old English word for “sea”, and maid, a girl or young woman. The equivalent term in Old English was merewif. In modern times, the mermaid is used as an official animal/mascot of many mythical stories involving pirates and the sea. It is also associated with “sea cows” that are called manatees. Sailors may have seen the animals and categorised them as mythical mermaids during moments of mistaken identity, delirium or sexual frustration due to a long voyage out at sea.

[Michael Parkes]

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