(in folklore) a female marine creature, having the head, torso, and arms of a woman and the tail of a fish.
a highly skilled female swimmer.

Origin of mermaid

First recorded in 1300–50, mermaid is from the Middle English word mermayde. See mere2, maid Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mermaid

Contemporary Examples of mermaid

Historical Examples of mermaid

  • It is quite fitting that the scene should be set in the "Mermaid."

    Browning's England

    Helen Archibald Clarke

  • Urquhart called her Undine, and she was mostly known as the Mermaid.

    Love and Lucy

    Maurice Henry Hewlett

  • However that may be, certain it is that this is a red-letter night at the Mermaid.

  • For Jim was not incapable of casting stones at even so rare a curiosity as a mermaid.

    The Mermaid

    Lily Dougall

  • "Yet it would be classical to dote upon a mermaid," Caius murmured.

    The Mermaid

    Lily Dougall

British Dictionary definitions for mermaid



an imaginary sea creature fabled to have a woman's head and upper body and a fish's tail

Word Origin for mermaid

C14: from mere lake, inlet + maid
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

Word Origin and History for mermaid

mid-14c., mermayde, literally "maid of the sea," from Middle English mere "sea, lake" (see mere (n.)) + maid. Old English had equivalent merewif "water-witch" (see wife), meremenn "mermaid, siren." Tail-less in northern Europe; the fishy form is a medieval influence from classical sirens. A favorite sign of taverns and inns since at least early 15c. (in reference to the inn on Bread Street, Cheapside, London). Mermaid pie (1660s) was "a sucking pig baked whole in a crust."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for mermaid


A legendary marine creature with the head and torso of a woman and the tail of a fish; the masculine, less well-known equivalent is a merman. Though linked to the classical Sirens, mermaids may be nothing more than sailors' fanciful reports of the playful antics of dugongs or manatees.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.