The word 'mermaid' literally means 'Woman of the sea'. In Old English 'mer' roughly translates to 'sea' and 'maid' ...well maid is another word for woman. Therefore 'mermaid' is 'seawoman'. Some mermaids do not appear to be half woman, half fish, like you would expect! Some are simply young women who live in the sea.
The first mermaid recorded, was actually a merman! He was a God from Babylon called Oannes.
Mermaids have been sighted all across the world for centuries, by sailors and pirates. However sightings have become very rare these days. Perhaps it's because of the amount of rubbish floating around? Are we scaring the mermaids away?
Most mermaids can also walk on land, and swap between their tails and legs like humans. This means that there are many mermaids living among us in secret. Some ways of spotting them are: Jewelry - Some mermaids wear magical gems called Moonstones. These can come in the form of necklaces, crowns or moon-rings. Behavior - Most mermaids will transform back into their natural state when the come in contact with water. So they will avoid water at all costs. - The full moon has a huge effect on mermaids. They can become mesmerized and almost put into a trance by the full moon. Voices - Some mermaids have beautiful, mesmerizing singing voices. If someone has a singing voice that blows you away, It's likely they're a mermaid!
In some cultures mermaids are seen as a bad omen, or a sign of bad luck and are best avoided by sailors and fishermen.
There are lots of different types of mermaid, just like there are lots of different types of fish! They come in all sorts of colors and shapes. Some have scales, some have smooth tails like dolphins. Some don't have tails at all! Some breathe underwater and some can just hold their breath for a long time. Some live in the sea, but others live in lakes and rivers. Some have magical powers and some do not. But all mermaids love the earth and want to help it.
The goddess Venus is sometimes depicted as a mermaid, being born from a giant clam shell.
Mermaids are often muddled up with sirens. Sirens are dangerous creatures, that are half woman half bird. Sirens live on remote islands and rocks in the middle of the ocean, and sing songs to lure sailors to crash into the rocks. Whereas mermaids are gentle creatures who seek to help and become friends with humans.
It is said that tiny bits of glass and plastic, are actually mermaids tears, and shark egg sacks are known as mermaid's purses.
In art, stories and even movies; mermaids are often shown to fall in love with land folk. The most popular being Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid'