Mermaid Facts



Modified: 31 May 2023

sea, mermaid, fantasy

According to the World Atlas, 95% of the ocean floor remains undiscovered. Historically, mermaid sightings either are made by mistake or hoaxes created by man. The fish-tailed half-human creature continues to fascinate people all over the world. Some took their mermaid fascination to another level: by being a professional mermaid themselves! Did you know that the explorer Christopher Columbus mistook a manatee for a mermaid? Funnily enough, notorious pirate Blackbeard did all he could to avoid a mermaid encounter. Let’s dive deep into these 60 mystical mermaid facts!

  1. Ancient Syria recorded Atargatis as the earliest recorded mermaid in 1000 BC.
  2. There are four types of mermaids: traditional, Selkies, shape-shifters, and the Merfolk.
  3. They also possess four main powers: immortality, telepathy, hypnosis, and clairvoyance.
  4. Mermen came 7,000 years before Atagartis.
  5. The latest mermaid sighting happened in Israel in 2009.
  1. The term came from Old English words mere (of the sea) and maid (woman).
  2. A mermaid is female, while a merman is male.
  3. They are incredible beauties.
  4. Mermaids symbolize sin and seduction in the Middle Ages.
  5. Some cultures consider mermaids as bad omens.
  6. Merfolks are the best singers among the mermaids.
  7. A mermaid’s kiss can grant a man the ability to breathe underwater.
  8. Almost every continent has a version of its mermaid.
  9. A mermaid’s tail changes color depending on its mood.
  10. Mermaid sightings are usually just swimming manatees.
  1. The Starbucks logo features a two-tailed mermaid.
  2. Scandinavian mermaid myths inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write The Little Mermaid.
  3. The 2011 movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides featured a realistic presentation of a mermaid.
  4. Mermaid: The Body Found documentary in 2012 renewed interest in mythological creatures.
  5. The Disney mermaid movie The Little Mermaid premiered in 1989.
Table of Contents

Mermaids are personifications of water deities.

Gods and goddesses take many forms, whether it’s a human or an animal. Some deities take the form of what they represent, like waves for naiads and oak trees for dryads. Water deities combine the human and representative forms in one. Triton, son of Poseidon, took the merman form. Meanwhile, the Slavic water nymph Rusalki and the Maori fish-god Ikatere took mermaid forms.

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Photo from: Pixabay

Selkies are mermaids who can transform their fins into human legs.

Some women can easily transform from mermaids to humans. Women “possessing an unearthly beauty with dark hair and eyes” who can “shed their skins and frolic on the sand” are commonly associated with selkies.

Its most popular legend is the Scottish folklore of a man stealing a selkie’s skin to make her his wife. The couple had children, but the selkie never found her skin and longed to return home to the sea.

Meanwhile, the god Oannes was an unusual merman.

Babylonian priest Berosus described Oannes as a god with “the form of a fish but with the head of a man under his fish’s head and under his fish’s tail the feet of a man”. He used to come to the Persian Gulf shore in his fish-human form to teach language, arts, and sciences before returning to the sea at night.

Some goddesses took the form of a mermaid.

The mermaid form seems to be a popular choice among goddesses. Whether they’re from Europe or Asia, mermaid goddesses are everywhere. There’s the Brazilian water snake Iara, the French feminine spirit Melusine, and the Irish human-fish Merrow.

The most popular mermaid figure is Mami Wata, the African water spirit who is “half human and half fish, but sometimes she can walk the earth in the more human body”.

But not all water deities are mermaids.

There are several types of water deities, depending on the body of water they reside in. Nymphs like the Naiads are found in freshwaters, while the Haliaes are in seawater. There are also water fairies called Sprites and water spirits called Nixes. The unusual ones are the bird-women Sirens and the Slavic ocean ghosts called Rusalkas.

Mermaids were once considered marine animals.

People from the Medieval Ages assumed mermaids were as organic as fishes. Even then, they were mystical creatures that reside in the sea. Mermaids were commonly featured in Medieval churches to represent Lust, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

ocean, sea, mermaid, mermaid facts
Photo from: Pixabay

Mermaids like accessorizing, merfolks prefer weaponizing.

In the film The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s curiosity about human accessories (and dining utensils) is nothing new. These oceanic beauties are vain and fashionable, accessorizing themselves with necklaces, crowns, bracelets, hand mirrors, and combs. Meanwhile, merfolks would rather arm themselves with weapons, like a three-pronged trident.

A mermaid’s singing can lure sailors to their death.

There is no denying a mermaid’s ethereal beauty, but it’s their voice people should be wary of. One superstition requires sailors to put wax in their ears to block a mermaid’s singing. Otherwise, the sailors would have the urge to swim with the mermaids and sink to their deaths.

Mermaids are vegetarians.

Though mostly fictional and a product of folklore, there are debates on whether a mermaid eats seafood or not. Mermaid diets depend on where they live, that’s why a few scientists believe some mermaids only eat kelp and seaweeds.

Nereids are different from mermaids.

They both belong to the waters, but they’re very different entities. Old Man of the Sea Nereus and Oceanid Doris had 50 daughters called Nereids, beautiful nymphs dressed in silk and are barefoot. They represent the peace of the sea. Meanwhile, mermaids are considered bad omens for seducing sailors and fishermen to their deaths.

Sirens are not mermaids.

There’s always a mix-up between a siren and a mermaid. Though both creatures reside in the waters, they couldn’t be any more different.

A siren is a winged creature with a head of a woman and the body of a bird. Meanwhile, a mermaid is half-human and half-fish. Their only similarity is their beautiful singing voices that can lure men to their death.

sirens, odyssey, mermaid facts
Photo from: Wikimedia Commons

Storm kelpies are not as popular as mermaids.

The Blue Men of the Minch is a popular mythological creature in Scottish folklore. They are storm kelpies, shape-shifting spirits that inhabit lakes. Transceltic described them as “creatures that are the size and shape of humans, are very strong, and can be seen swimming and diving”. The Blue Men challenged ship captains to rhyming and singing contests. If the captains win, he and the crew would be left alone in their journey.

Legends say humans evolved from mermaids.

There are several theories on the evolution of men, most notably Charles Darwin‘s The Origin of Species in 1859. The 2012 documentary Mermaid: The Body Found discussed the possibility of humans and mermaids being evolutionarily linked. Some say the claim is purely speculation while some argue that the claims may be proof of evolution.

Sirenuca is the legend of a woman who transformed into a mermaid.

There are several stories and legends about mermaids, but nothing as strange as Sirenuca. According to the myths, a mother was so fed up with her spoiled daughter for continuously disobeying her that she angrily screamed, “God, grant that you become a fish”. The young girl then turned into a mermaid whose voice traverse into the sea, warning the sailors of the dangerous cliffs ahead.

It’s believed that the people of Atlantis turned into mermaids.

Fictional or not, the sunken city of Atlantis has fascinated people for centuries. There have been arguments about whether its citizens died along with the island or adapted to their surroundings and evolved into mermaids. Some people believe that the mermaids originated from Atlantis itself.

A mermaid converted to Catholicism in the 1600s.

It’s hard to believe that any non-human creature would believe in a God that isn’t their own. Back in the 1600s, a mermaid got injured trying to enter the Netherlands through a dike. The citizens nursed her back to health. The mermaid learned Dutch, did household chores, and then converted to Catholicism.

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Photo from: Pixabay

A cliff in Germany is named after a mermaid legend.

Every legend begins with a small story. Lorelei (sometimes Loreley), was a beautiful maiden who was known to have waited for her lover on a rock at the Rhine River. When he never came, she jumped off a cliff and her spirit was claimed to have stayed on the rock with her body becoming half-fish. The cliff was eventually named after her, and sailors are warned of her enchanting beauty and voice.

Brazilian artist Walmor Correa imagined mermaid anatomy in his piece.

There are several fake “mermaid skeletons” surfacing every few years, but no one truly knows how their body functions. If anything, there are only pure speculations. Brazilian artist Walmor Correa drew detailed anatomy of a mermaid. Renato Beluche found the piece surprising, especially the detail on how a mermaid can carry a child in her womb.

It’s still unclear how mermaids reproduce.

Since they are mythological creatures, no one completely knows how mermaids reproduce.

Either the merfolk couple could procreate in their human form and still give birth to a merfolk baby or the mermaid will produce eggs that the mermen can fertilize. Many believe that the gestation will still be nine months, similar to humans.

Stonemasons carved the earliest depiction of a mermaid in 1078.

Within the walls of the historic Durham Castle sits one of the oldest depictions of a mermaid. The Middle Ages saw mermaids as “evil, lustful creatures”. In 1078, an unknown stonemason carved what looks like a childish drawing of a mermaid, with long hair and a scaly fishtail.

Christopher Columbus claimed he saw mermaids.

A lot of alleged mermaid sightings end up being a mistake. Christopher Columbus ended up making the same mistake. The explorer described the creatures to be “not half as beautiful as they are painted”. Apparently, what Columbus saw in 1493 were three manatees, not mermaids.

christopher columbus, statue
Photo from: Pixabay

Merfolk terrified Blackbeard.

West Indies pirate Blackbeard is known for being absolutely fearsome. But in the 1700s, Blackbeard claimed that he saw merfolk and recorded the areas in his logbook where they may inhabit. He was terrified of encountering them again!

It’s believed that aquamarine was a gift from the mermaids.

As magical and mystical they are, it’s common knowledge that mermaids leave gifts to humans they like. The usual gifts are magical seashells or a special pearl. Very rarely, their tears. The clear-bluish Pisces birthstone is called aquamarine. It’s believed these mermaid tears will protect the person carrying them.

The Havfines inspired Hans Christian Andersen.

“The Little Mermaid” is a tragic fairytale about a young mermaid princess who swapped her beautiful voice for human legs and sacrificed her life so the prince could live with his chosen princess. The Norweigan mermaids inspired Hans Christian Andersen to write the tale. In fact, the Havfines are extremely beautiful creatures, but they can be temperamental and cruel.

Alexander the Great’s sister became a mermaid.

An ancient Greek legend has been circulating for centuries. Depressed and heartbroken because of her half-brother’s death, Thessalonike jumped into the sea. But legend says she didn’t drown, instead she became a mermaid, thanks to the water from the Fountain of Immortality that the prince washed her hair with.

Even Captain John Smith documented his “mermaid” sighting.

While sailing the Caribbean seas in 1614, English explorer Smith thought he saw a Rubenesque-figured woman with “long green hair” and even added, “below the waist…gave way to the fish”. Apparently, this green-haired beauty was a manatee, not a mermaid!

captain john smith
Photo from: Wikimedia Commons

Showman P.T. Barnum had a mermaid exhibition.

The man had been popular even before award-winning actor Hugh Jackman took the role for a movie. American showman and businessman Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum promoted the Feejee Mermaid exhibition in New York, Boston, and London in the 19th century. The hoax mermaid was “probably made from an orangutan and a salmon”.

Alleged mermaid bones are on display in a Japanese temple.

The Japanese are no stranger to curious mermaid tales. Legends call these mermaids ningyo, and one drifted ashore the Hakata Bay before dying in 1222. The “bones” were unearthed 800 years ago and are currently on display at Ryuguji Temple in Fukuoka.

Kappa is both a monster and merfolk.

Japanese merfolk considered this creature as a monster and a water deity. A kappa is a green, amphibious, human-like being with webbed hands and feet, with a turtle shell. Children are warned not to go near bodies of water at the risk of being pushed by a kappa. They are also known for challenging humans to sumo wrestling.

Haenyeo (해녀) are real-life elderly divers.

Mermaids do exist in Korean folklore depicted “as a goddess that warns fishermen of sea storms and impending doom”. But there are actual living “mermaids” called the haenyeo (해녀) or Jeju Mermaids, female elderly divers harvesting abalone, conch, and octopus in the freezing island waters. To date, less than 4,500 divers are remaining.

Some children are born with Mermaid Syndrome.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), Sirenomelia is “an extremely rare congenital developmental disorder” wherein “infants are born with partial or complete fusion of the legs”. Specifically, there are seven classifications of the Mermaid Syndrome, depending on “the presence or absence of bones within the lower limb”.

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Photo from: Unsplash

The Arabian Nights featured a story between a fisherman and a merman.

In the ninth volume of the Arabian Nights, the fisherman caught a merman who shared the same name and the same faith. Abdullah the Land became friends with Abdullah of the Sea after they traded fruits and gems.

Their friendship ended after the fisherman found it disturbing that the mermaids are naked and happily celebrating funerals. The merman became upset and explained, “that he could not trust someone who does not rejoice in a soul that had been deposited on earth returning to Allah”.

There are over 16 films that feature mermaids.

Even the film industry is no exception to mermaid lore. The Cinemaholic ranked the 1984 movie Splash as the best mermaid movie of all time. It starred Tom Hanks as Allen Baurer and Daryl Hannah as Madison.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid earned over $200 million!

No one could deny the magic Disney provides in everything they do. The company’s Renaissance-era began with the premiere of The Little Mermaid in 1989. It was a (forgive the pun) watered-down version of the famous Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.

The movie earned $211 million at the box office. Not only that, the song Under The Sea won the Best Original Song category at the Golden Globes in 1990.

King Triton’s daughters each represent the Seven Seas.

Thanks to creative license, Disney’s The Little Mermaid gave King Triton seven daughters. Each of these daughters represents one of the Seven Seas, namely Attina (Bering Sea), Alana (Black Sea) Adella (Mediterranean Sea), Aquata (Coral Sea), Arista (White Sea), Andrina (Caribbean Sea), and Ariel (Red Sea).

However, Greek mythology says otherwise. The god of the sea had two daughters named Pallas (messenger of the seas) and Triteia (god of war Ares’ mate). He also stood as Athena’s foster father.

The Shape of Water won four categories at the Academy Awards.

American director Guillermo del Toro doesn’t fail to deliver when it comes to unique storytelling. The 2017 romantic dark fantasy film The Shape of Water was no exception. It’s the story of the mute custodian Elisa Esposito falling in love with The Amphibian Man she rescued from a secret government laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland.

The film bagged four out of 13 categories at the 90th Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design.

guillermo del toro, shape of water
Photo from: Wikimedia Commons

An unofficial historical tale inspired Legend of the Blue Sea.

Dramas from South Korea also tackled mermaids. In 2016, the historical romantic comedy Legend of the Blue Sea, starring Lee Min Ho and award-winning actress Jun Ji Hyun, was released.

The drama takes on both the romanticized historical context and the modern re-telling of the mermaid and her lover. It was based on the first collection of unofficial historical tales wherein a fisherman released the mermaid he captured.

There’s more to the Starbucks logo than just a two-tailed mermaid.

In March 1971, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker founded Starbucks. Greek mythology inspired the now iconic two-tailed mermaid logo. The founders aimed to “lure coffee lovers from everywhere” like mermaids did, as Design Hill puts it.

Mer-physics describe how mermaids would live in the real world.

A Gizmodo article imagined how a real-life mermaid can possibly experience the modern world. Mer-physics described a mermaid’s heightened senses. It talked about how merfolks can see mirages as humans do, how they have incredible voice boxes, and how they can pick up the smell of gas.

A professional mermaid earns $50,000 per year on average.

Being a mermaid can be a lifestyle and also a career. There are professional divers or deep-sea swimmers who are into performing as if they are mermaids. The average performer is known to earn $50,000 per year on average.

Like every career, it’s an investment in itself. Neoprene, platinum silicone, partial tin-cure silicone, and molded latex make ideal mermaid tails, each ranging from $80 to more than $3,000.