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Pronounced /θɪərɪænˈθrɒp/Help with pronunciation

A therianthrope is a being that is part animal, part human. The usual meaning of the related adjective therianthropic is of a god that is represented as combining animal and human forms.

The best known examples are the animal-headed gods of ancient Egypt, such as Bast (with the head of a cat) or Anubis (whose head was that of a jackal). The noun is rarer, but it appeared recently in reports of investigations into ancient cave art. The researchers found that some showed hybrid beings, such as cat-headed humans or men with the heads of antelopes. They argued these are the ancient relatives of such mythical human-animal hybrids as the minotaur (which had a man’s body but a bull’s head), satyr (part human, part goat), and werewolf.

In the last of these, the creature exhibits its animal and human aspects serially rather than simultaneously, an extension of the usual definition, though a usage that is common online, and one that has been applied equally to other human-animal transformations. The word combines the Greek therion, wild animal, with anthropos, human being.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 22 Dec. 2001

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-the2.htm
Last modified: 22 December 2001.