A mermaid (from the Middle English mere in the obsolete sense ‘sea’ as in maritime, the Latin mare, “sea”) + maid(en)) is a legendary aquatic creature with the head and torso of 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.
Much like sirens, 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 Anderson’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 faeries (e.g. various water nymphs) and selkies, animals that can transform themselves from seals to humans.
Among the Neo-Traíno of the Caribbean the mermaid is called Avcavía. Her attributes relate to the goddess Jagua, and the hibiscus flower of the majagua tree Hibiscus tiliaceus Examples from other cultures are the Mami Wata of West and Central Africa, the Jengu of Cameroon, the Merrow of Ireland and Scotland, the Rusalkas of Russia and Ukrane, and the Greek Oceanids, Nereids, and Naiads. One freshwater mermaid-like creature from European folklore is Melusine, who is sometimes depicted with two fish tails, and other times with the lower body of a serpent. It is said in Japan that eating the flesh of a mermaid can grant unaging immortality. In some European legends mermaids are said to grant wishes.
Also, some people claim they have seen dead or living mermaids in places like Scotland, Malaysia, British Columbia and Haiti. Two recent Canadian reports took place in the Strait of Georgia.
Mermaids and mermen are also characters of Phillipine folklore, where they are locally known as sirena and sivokoy, respectively.
Mermaids are said to be known for their vanity, but also for their innocence. They often fall in love with human men, and are willing to go to great extents to prove their love with humans. Unfortunately, especially younger mermaids, often tend to forget humans cannot breathe underwater. Their male counterparts, mermen, are rarely interested in human issues, but in the Finnish mythology mermen are able to grant wishes, heal sickness, lift curses and brew magic potions.