Mermaids are legendary, aquatic creatures with the head, arms and torso of a human female and the tail of a fish. The male version of a mermaid is called a merman; gender-neutral plurals could be "merpeople" or "merfolk". Various cultures throughout the world have similar figures. Because mermaids thrive in salt-water conditions, they would rarely be found in a freshwater lake or stream. Rather lagoons are much more frequented by these beauties. It is important to recognize this key difference between lakes and lagoons.


The word "mermaid" is a compound word of the Middle English mere meaning "sea" and maid short for maiden meaning woman. The Old English equivalent of mermaid is merewif, meaning "water-witch".

In Mythology

Much like the Sirens of Greek mythology, mermaids would sometimes sing to sailors and enchant them, distracting them from their work and causing them to walk off the deck or cause shipwrecks. Other stories would have them squeeze the life out of drowning men while trying to rescue them. They are also said to take them 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. The Sirens of Greek mythology are sometimes portrayed in later folklore as mermaid-like; in fact, some languages use the same word for both creatures. Other related types of mythical or legendary creature are water fairies (e.g. naiads and various water nymphs) and selkies, animals that can transform themselves from seals to humans. Prior to the mid-19th century, mariners referred to manatees and dugongs as mermaids.

In Popular Culture

Mermaids have been present in fictional literature for centuries and cinema since the early twentieth century.


  • Mermaids appear in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean:On Stranger Tides. They are shown to be vicious, seducing men and dragging them to the ocean floor to drown them, before eating them.
  • A mermaid princess, Ariel, appears in the Disney adaption of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. She lives in an underwater kingdom inhabited entirely by merpeople.
  • A mermaid that falls in love with a man appears in the film Splash with Tom Hanks.


  • The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen published in 1837 combined mermaid myths from around the globe. Also becoming a standard for mermaids in media and literature thereafter.
  • Mermaids also made an appearance in the famous novel Moby-Dick by Herman Melville published in 1851.
  • One Thousand and One Nights, originally a set of Persian and Indian folktales released in the 8th century was published in English in 1706. It includes mermaids myths from the Middle East and Southern Asia.
  • Writer L. Frank Baum, introduced merpeople in both The Sea Fairies, published in 1911 and The Scarecrow of Oz published in 1915.
  • Wet Magic written by Edith Nesbit and published in 1913. See's four children who save a mermaid from the circus and return to the Kingdom of the merfolk with her.
  • Mermaids are featured throughout The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.
  • The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague de Camp published in 1968. Showcases a romantic relationship between a mermaid and a human prince.
  • Mermaids are featured in the 1979 Poul Anderson novel, The Merman's Children.
  • The 1988 novel The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter a man faces the wrath of a mermaid.
  • Two siblings capture a mermaid in The Moon and the Sun written by Vonda N. McIntyre and published in 1997.
  • Mermaids are also featured throughout the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince features them the most.
  • Aquamarine published in 2001 and written by Alice Hofman. Showcases two teenage girls who befriend a mermaid of the same age.
  • A Sereia de Curitiba by Rhys Hughes, tells the stories of mermaids around the globe.
  • Tera Lynn Childs novel, Forgive My Fins tells the story of a half-mermaid princess.
    • Sequels Fins Are Forever and Just For Fins also feature mermaids.
  • The Forbidden Sea written by Shiela A. Nielson showcases a girls trying to protect her sister from a mermaid who surrounds the island.
  • Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau tells the story of an aquaphobic mer-girl who tries to find her missing mermaid mother.
  • Carolyn Turgeon's Mermaid published in 2007. It retells The Little Mermaid fairytale as a love triangle between the mermaid, the human princess, and the prince.
  • 2010 novel, The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan tells the story of a surfer girl who finds a mermaid.
  • In the Ted Price novel Meredith the Mermaid, a landlocked mermaid tries to make her way back to the ocean.
  • The Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler, follows a young girls who discovers she is half-mermaid.
  • 2010 novel Keeper by Kathi Appelt, follows a young girl in search of her mermaid mother.
  • Lost Voices is the first in a series by Sarah Porter, about young girls who turn into mermaids after traumatic events.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, features merfolk.
  • The The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, features the little mermaid character.
  • The novel Deep Trouble in the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, a boy finds a mermaid.
  • The Everworld series by K. A. Applegate, features both mermaid and mermen.

Comic Books

  • Namor the Sub-Mariner, a series that started in 1939 featuring Marvel's first antihero, Namor McKenzie. Whom is a part of the fictional Homo mermanus race, of half mermaid/mermen and humans.
  • Superman: Clark Kent had a mermaid love interest names Lori Lemaris.
  • Arabelle the Last Mermaid: a comic strip by Jean Ache about a mermaid who gets plastic surgery to obtain legs. Published in the French newspaper France-Soir between 1950 and 1962.
  • One Piece: A manga which features various mermaids.
  • Rave Master: A manga series by Hiro Mashima features mermaids named Celia and Mildesta.
  • Dragon Ball: In chapter 25, "A Rival Arrives!!", Master Roshi asks Goku to bring him a pretty girl, and if he did, he would train him, Goku finds a mermaid.
  • Mermaid Saga: A manga series by Rumiko Takahashi which features two types of mermaids. The first may gain human appearance when they eat the flesh of an immortal girl; the second has two legs and feed on the flesh of mermaids who live in water, specifically when they are about to give birth.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: A manga about a group of mermaid princesses who become pop singers and use their voices as weapons against their enemies.
  • My Bride is a Mermaid: A manga about a man who is saved from drowning by a mermaid and is then forced to marry her.
  • 07-Ghost: The mermaid Lazette sings and plays an organ in a church. She can shapeshift her face into that of other people. If people eat her scales it allows them to breathe underwater.
  • Legendz: In the manga, Ken Kazaki's friend Ririko Yasuhara has a mermaid named Tetty.
  • Aion: A manga by Yuna Kagesaki which features various mermaids.
  • Akazukin Chacha: A manga about a mermaid named Marin, who can change into human form when her tail is dry.
  • Black Cat: A manga where one of the main characters, Eve, uses nanomachines to give herself transformation abilities, and once she transforms into a mermaid.


  • Merpeople (Dsiney's The Little Mermaid)
    • Ariel
    • Triton
  • Aquamarine (Aquamarine)
  • Merpeople (Pirates of the Caribbean)


  • Merpeople (H2O: Just Add Water/Mako: Island of Secrets)
  • Merpeople (American Dragon: Jake Long)
    • Silver
    • Dolores Derceto
  • Merpeople (Sofia the First)
    • Oona
    • Cora
    • Queen Emmaline
    • Plank
  • Meeshell Mermaid (Ever After High)
  • Sirena Von Boo (Monster High)
  • Mermando (Gravity Falls)
  • Aquaphonis (Tara Duncan)

Video Games


  • Merpeople (Harry Potter)
  • Merpeople (The Chronicles of Narnia)