Mermaid

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A mermaid is a mythological aquatic creature with a female human head and torso and the tail of a fish. Mermaids have a broad representation in folklore, literature, and popular culture.

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Overview and etymology

The word is a compound of mere, the Old English word for "sea", and maid, a woman. The male equivalent is a merman.

Much like sirens, mermaids sometimes sing to people and gods and enchant them, distracting them from their work and causing them to walk off the deck or run their ships aground. Other stories depict them squeezing the life out of drowning men while attempting to rescue them. They are also said to carry humans down to their underwater kingdoms. In Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, it is said that they forget that humans cannot breathe underwater, while others say they drown men out of spite.[citation needed]

The sirens of Greek mythology are sometimes portrayed in later folklore as mermaid-like; in fact, some languages use the same word for both bird and fish creatures, such as the Maltese word 'sirena'. Other related types of mythical or legendary creatures are water fairies (e.g., various water nymphs) and selkies, animals that can transform themselves from seals to humans.[citation needed]

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