Werecritters and Names
So many people know the term Lycanthrope, a fancy term for Werewolf, a person who turns into a wolf and/or a wolf-human hybrid.
Some RPGs (like Dungeons & Dragons, and Pathfinder) use “Lycanthrope” to refer to all such types of shapechangers, regardless of which animal it is. Problem is, this is linguistically incorrect.
Lycanthrope comes from two Greek words, Lykos (“wolf”) and Anthropos (“human”), which works fine for werewolves but not other werecreatures. Using the Greek word for whatever animal it is they turn into as the prefix would be more appropriate.
With that in mind, here’s what I’ve cobbled together:
A more correct proper term for such shapechangers as a whole would be Therianthrope, from Therion (“beast” or “wild animal”) + Anthropos – a term I first encountered in the AD&D 2nd Ed. Monster Manual – or Zoanthrope, from Zoion (“animal” or “living being”) + Anthropos.
- Wereape = Pithekanthrope, from Pithekos (“Ape”) + Anthropos
- Werebat = Chiropteranthrope, from Chiroptera (from Cheir “Hand” + Pteron “Wing”) + Anthropos
- Werebear = Arktanthrope, from Arktos (“Bear”) + Anthropos
- Wereboar = Kapranthrope, form Kapros (“Boar”) + Anthropos
- Werecat = Ailouranthrope, from Ailouros (Greek name for Bast & for Egyptian cats) + Anthropos
- Werecow = Bouanthrope, from Bous (“Cow”) + Anthropos
- Werecrocodile = Souchanthrope, from Souchos (“Crocodile”) + Anthropos
- Weredeer = Elefanthrope, from Elafi (“Deer”) + Anthropos
- Weredog = Kyontanthrope, from Kyon, Kyontos (“Dog/Hound”) + Anthropos
- Weredolphin = Delphanthrope, from Delphis (“Dolphin”) + Anthropos
- Weredonkey = Gaidaranthrope, from Gaidaros (“Donkey”) + Anthropos
- Wereeagle = Ornanthrope, from Ornis (“Bird/Eagle”) + Anthropos
- Wereelephant = Elephanthrope, from Elephas (“Elephant”) + Anthropos
- Weregiraffe = Kamelopardanthrope, from Kamelopard (from Kamelos “Camel” + Pardos “Leopard”) + Anthropos
- Weregoat = Traganthrope, from Tragos (“Goat”) + Anthropos
- Werehorse = Hippanthrope, from Hippos (“Horse”) + Anthropos
- Werelion = Leanthrope, from Leon (“Lion”) + Anthropos
- Werelizard = Crocodilanthrope, from Crocodilos (“Lizard”) + Anthropos
- Weremouse = Musanthrope, from Mus (“Mouse”) + Anthropos
- Werepig = Khoiranthrope, from Khoiros (“Pig”) + Anthropos
- Wererat = Arouraianthrope, from Arouraios (“Rat”) + Anthropos
- Wereshark = Karcharianthrope, from Karcharias (“Sharp-Tooth”) + Anthropos
- Wereserpent = Drakontanthrope, from Drakon, Drakontos (“Serpent”) + Anthropos
- Weresquid = Kalamoanthrope, from Kalamos (the Grerek word for squid, literally meaning “reed/tube/pen”) + Anthropos
- Wereswan = Kyknanthrope, from Kyknos (“Swan”) + Anthropos
- Weretiger = Tigranthrope, from Tigris (“Tiger”) + Anthropos
- Werevulture = Aegypianthrope, from Aegypius (“Vulture”) + Anthropos
- Werewhale = Falenanthrope, from Falena (“Whale”) + Anthropos
Greek did of course have its own words for many things, but some were borrowed from other cultures, and some things were named by combining the names of two or more things.
Cats & Big Cats: These are really tricky, since for one thing the Ancient Greeks didn’t really have cats until they met the Egyptians. (What was the most common housepet for the Ancient Greeks? Weasels!) Ailuros was what they called the Egyptian cats (and was itself the Greek word for the Egyptian goddess Bast, whom they likened to Artemis), but after interacting with those and other breeds of cats for a while they adapted the Latin word for cats, cattus. As for the big cats… things get confusing. The word “leopard” comes from Leon (Greek word for lion) + Pardos (Greek for panther), since it was believed leopards were the offspring of a lion and a panther. But the word “panther” itself is a folk etymology stemming from the Greek words Pan (“all”) + Therion (”beast”). Tigris is the Greek word for tiger, but that came from either Latin or Persian.
(Pantherianthrope could refer not to a werepanther but to someone who could shift into any animal form!)
Giraffe: Supposedly, when the Greeks first saw giraffes, they thought they looked like camels with the spots of a leopard, so the called them camel-leopards, or camelopards. (The Ancient Greek term for baboons? Khoiropithekos, from Khoiros + Pithekos, since they were thought to look like monkeys with pig snouts.) “Cameleopard” was a not uncommon term for giraffes in some parts of the world on up to the 19th century!
If I’ve gotten anything wrong, or you know of a better word, please let me know!
EDIT: Another thing about the word “werewolf” is that the “were” part means “adult male”; “werewolf” is literally “man-wolf.” The word “woman” is derived from wifman, a combination of “man” and wif, meaning
an adult female and surviving with an altered meaning in the form
“wife.” If you wanted to construct an etymologically accurate term for a female lycanthrope, it’d be something like wifwolf (wifshark, wiftigress, et cetera).