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Demogorgon

[ dee-muh-gawr-guhn, dem-uh- ]
/ ˌdi məˈgɔr gən, ˌdɛm ə- /
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noun

a vague, mysterious, infernal power or divinity mistakenly thought to belong to ancient mythology.

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Origin of Demogorgon

First recorded in 1580–90, Demogorgon is from the Late Latin word Dēmogorgōn, of uncertain origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does Demogorgon mean?

Demogorgon is a name used to refer to a hideous, primeval monster or demon in various mythology, literature, and media. It is notably featured in the Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things.

Where does Demogorgon come from?

The Demogorgon notably appeared throughout most of the first season of Stranger Things (2016). The menacing, humanoid monster has a flower-like head full of teeth and can travel between dimensions, a power it uses to abduct (and kill) characters.

The Stranger Things monster was designed by concept artist Aaron Sims, approved by show creators the Duffer Brothers, and portrayed by Mark Steger. The name of the monster, as pointed out in the show, was a reference to a popular Dungeons & Dragons demon that first appeared in 1976. Smaller, Demogorgon-like monsters (apparently at different life stages of the Demogorgon) figure in the second season of the show.

The idea—and name—of the Demogorgon is far older, however. In the 1st-century epic The Thebaid by Roman poet Publius Papinius Statius, a character claims to know the names of every deity, including one that is so feared that nobody dares speak its name. In a commentary on Statius’s work around the 4th century, an author, named Lactantius Placidus, provides the name of this fearsome being as Demogorgon. Later scholars argued, however, Demogorgon was an error for a form of the Greek demiourgos, origin of demiurge, a kind of Platonic creator deity.

Regardless of what Placidus meant, references to his Demogorgon appeared in the Middle Ages. Perhaps the most influential of which was Italian poet and scholar Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), who figured the Demogorgon in his On the Genealogy of the Gods of the Gentiles (1360) as the oldest of all the mythological gods. Later works—including Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590), Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (c1592), and even John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)—would bolster the Demogorgon’s reputation as a demonic entity too terrifying to even invoke.

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax indicated on a 2002 role-playing game forum that his Demogorgon, a demon prince in the game, was inspired by the mythological and historical depictions of the creature.

How is Demogorgon used in real life?

People may use Demogorgon in reference to ancient mythology, medieval writing and thought, Dungeons & Dragons, or, more more popularly, the character on Stranger Things.

Thanks to the popularity of Stranger Things, the Demogorgon is figured in everything from toys to cosplay. Other creatures or costumes that resemble its distinctive, mouth-flower form may be likened to the Demogorgon.

Due to its frightfulness, the Demogorgon may sometimes be used to stand in for monsters or demons more generally.

 

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

British Dictionary definitions for Demogorgon

Demogorgon
/ (ˌdiːməʊˈɡɔːɡən) /

noun

a mysterious and awesome god in ancient mythology, often represented as ruling in the underworld
C16: via Late Latin from Greek
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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