Know these essential literary terms?
mid-14c., mermayde, literally "maid of the sea," from Middle English mere "sea, lake" (see mere (n.)) + maid. Old English had equivalent merewif "water-witch" (see wife), meremenn "mermaid, siren." Tail-less in northern Europe; the fishy form is a medieval influence from classical sirens. A favorite sign of taverns and inns since at least early 15c. (in reference to the inn on Bread Street, Cheapside, London). Mermaid pie (1660s) was "a sucking pig baked whole in a crust."
A legendary marine creature with the head and torso of a woman and the tail of a fish; the masculine, less well-known equivalent is a merman. Though linked to the classical Sirens, mermaids may be nothing more than sailors' fanciful reports of the playful antics of dugongs or manatees.
a fabled marine creature with the head and upper body of a human being and the tail of a fish. Similar divine or semidivine beings appear in ancient mythologies (e.g., the Chaldean sea god Ea, or Oannes). In European folklore, mermaids (sometimes called sirens) and mermen were natural beings who, like fairies, had magical and prophetic powers. They loved music and often sang. Though very long-lived, they were mortal and had no souls