Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A legendary sea creature having the head and upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mythological creature with a woman's head and upper body, and a tail of a fish.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A fabled marine creature, typically represented as having the upper part like that of a woman, and the lower like a fish; a sea nymph, sea woman, or woman fish.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A fabled marine or amphibian creature having the form of a woman above the waist and that of a fish below, endowed with human attributes, and usually working harm, with or without malignant intent, to mortals with whom she might be thrown into relation.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. half woman and half fish; lives in the sea

Etymologies

Middle English : mere, sea, lake; see mere2 + maid, maid; see maid.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English mermayde ("maid of the sea"), from mere ("sea, lake") + maid, equivalent to mer- +‎ maid. Compare Old English meremenn, meremennen, meremenin ("mermaid, siren"). (Wiktionary)

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