AskDefine | Define merman

Dictionary Definition



1 United States singer who appeared in several musical comedies (1909-1984) [syn: Ethel Merman]
2 half man and half fish; lives in the sea

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. a legendary creature, human male from the waist up, fishlike from the waist down

See also

Extensive Definition

Mermen are mythical male legendary creatures who are human from the waist up and fish-like from the waist down. They are less commonly known than their female counterparts, mermaids.


In Greek mythology, mermen were often illustrated to have green seaweed-like hair, a beard, and a trident. In Irish mythology, mermen are described as extremely ugly creatures with pointed green teeth, pig-like eyes, green hair, and a red nose. In Finnish mythology, a merman (vetehinen) is often portrayed as a magical, powerful, handsome, bearded man with the tail of a fish. He can cure illnesses, lift curses and brew potions, but he can also cause unintended harm by becoming too curious about human life.
The actions and behavior of mermen can vary wildly depending on the source and time period of the stories. They have been said to sink ships by summoning great storms, but also said to be wise teachers, according to earlier mythology. A merman, like a mermaid, attracts humans with singing and tones.
Mermen are rarely seen marrying human women; when this happens the merman's new bride becomes a mermaid. After parenting other mermaids or mermen the new mermaid may feel homesick for her family and friends and demand to be set free, after which the merman would have to find another bride. Matthew Arnold's poem "The Forsaken Merman" is based on this imagined situation.

Notable mermen

  • The most well-known merman was probably Triton, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Although Amphitrite gave birth to a merman, neither Poseidon nor Amphitrite were merfolk, although both were able to live under water as easily as on land. Triton was also known as the Trumpeter of the Sea for his usage of a conch shell.
  • Other noteworthy mermen were the Babylonian Oannes and Ea, and the Sumerian Enki.
  • Another notable merman from Greek mythology was Glaucus. He was born a human and lived his early life as a fisherman. One day, while fishing, he saw that the fish he caught would jump from the grass and into the sea. He ate some of the grass, believing it to have magical properties, and felt an overwhelming desire to be in the sea. He jumped in the ocean and refused to go back on land. The sea gods nearby heard his prayers and transformed him into a sea god. Ovid describes the transformation of Glaucus in the Metamorphoses, describing him as a blue-green man with a fishy member where his legs had been.
  • Norse mythology, in particular Icelandic folklore has mermen, known as Marbendlar.
  • In Dogon mythology (not to be confused with the semitic fish god Dagon), ancestral spirits called Nommo had humanoid upper torsos, legs and feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail.


A "merman" (actually a Fiji mermaid) was supposedly found in Banff, Alberta. It has a display at the Indian Trading Post.


In some modern works and films however, mermen are portrayed as handsome, strong and brave. They are almost always portrayed wearing no clothing, no matter what the temperature of the water is, with the exception of armour or cloaks in some settings.
  • The Thirteenth Year (1999) is about a teenage boy turning into a merman.
  • Madonna's music video Cherish features the singer along a shore while mermen swim in the ocean.
  • In The Little Mermaid animated TV series, an original character by the name of Urchin is a merboy and Ariel's new friend. He shares her love for adventure and is unofficially her adopted brother.
  • In the movie Zoolander (2001), the miners at the bar are all laughing at Derek Zoolander's "mermaid" commercial. At the mention of Derek's mother's death, his father quips "I just thank the lord she didn't live to see her son as a friggin' mermaid!" Derek, hurt, responds, "Merman... Merman!"
  • Erotica author Megan Hussey has written several romantic e-books pertaining to the merman legend, including "A Good Catch" and "Prince of the Seas," released through Silk's Vault publishing, as well as "Azure Masquerade" and "Passion Storm" through Midnight Showcase (in print, audio and e-book versions).
  • Jimi Hendrix has a song called "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)", one of his longest studio recordings. It was released on Electric Ladyland, Hendrix's last studio album.
  • One of the main villains in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series was named Mer-Man; he was the lord of aquatic beings of similar appearance.
  • The Little Mermanis a web-video series that follows comedian Thomas J. Kelly as he leaves comedy and endeavors to become the first "merMAN" in the sixty-year history of the famous Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid show in Florida.
  • In the movie House of 1000 Corpses, after killing Bill, Otis chops him up and transforms him into a merman as an art project.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, after falling overboard from a cruise ship, Lois Griffin is saved from drowning by a merman who, in reverse of tradition, has the upper body of a fish and lower body of a man.
  • Singer-songwriter Tori Amos has a song titled Merman which she has dedicated to hate crime victim Matthew Shepard.
  • A non-popular Brazilian series, named "Os Filhos de Netuno" ("Neptune's Children" in USA English), has two mermen (or merboys) as its central characters. Adriel and Arthur are children of the king Neptune, and grandchildren of Poseidon, in the series and have several adventures under the sea. The series was made as a school project and has received some awards at festivals. The series is to be made available to everyone via a web site.
  • Prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Supergirl had a romantic interest in Jerro the Merboy, similar to the one Superman had with Lori Lemaris.
  • In Kamen Rider Kiva, Bassha is a Merman who takes a form of a young boy under the alias, Ramon, and serves as one of Kiva's arm monsters. In his monster form, he is able to shoot bubbles with great accuracy and destructive form. To fuse with Kiva, he turns into the Bassha Magnum to create Kiva Bassha form, Kiva's green shooting form.


See also

merman in German: Wassermann (Mythologie)
merman in Dutch: Meerman
merman in Japanese: 半魚人
merman in Indonesian: Merman
merman in Chinese: 人魚
merman in Finnish: Vetehinen_(taruolento)|Vetehinen
merman in Classical Chinese: 人魚
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