Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monsters and things

It's getting close to Halloween, and so I've decided to do a little monster etymology etc.

lemures - this Latin word referred to ghosts...spirits of the dead. The lemur (animal) was named after it, possibly for its spooky eyes. Or possibly for the sounds they make at night.

larva - yet another Latin word for ghost that was later applied to biology.

nightmare - an evil female spirit that suffocates persons while they sleep.

incubus - another evil spirit who messes with people as they sleep, especially one who engages in sexual intercourse with sleeping females.

succubus - the female equivalent of the incubus; this one sleeps with men as they sleep.

demon - the original Greek form referred to "half-gods" or low level deities; the evil connotations came later.

spirit - related to the Latin word spirare for "to breathe", this referred to the vital force...that which separated the animate from the inanimate.

sprite - originally a differently spelled version of spirit, it now seems to refer to some type of supernatural being who lives in the woods. Also used in computer science to refer to a moving image or set of pixels.

Will-o'-the-wisp - also known as ignis fatuus; a light that runs away, causing the curious travelers to leave the road and venture into the woods (etc.) to chase after it. Also sometimes called Jack-o'-lantern.

ogre - a man-eating giant.

orc - a member of an ogre-like species; the modern version was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkein. Orc also used to refer to a sea creature, and from this the species name orca is derived.

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