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G’day everybody! Time to bring out the candy, prepare your outfit, and carve a jack-o’-lantern! If you’re not sure what we’re on about, don’t worry – we’ll fill you in. Tomorrow just so happens to be Halloween, a holiday celebrated most vigorously in the US and Canada. In recognition of this spooktacular scenario, your peeps at Simply CSOFT came up with a fittingly frightening feature for Wacky Word Wednesday (cue scary ghost wailing).

Check out what came creeping out of TermWiki.com’s dungeon this week:

 

 

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lycanthrope

[lahy-kan-throhp]

-noun

1. a person affected with lycanthropy.
2. a werewolf or alien spirit in the physical form of a bloodthirsty wolf.

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The term lycanthrope is a compound of the Greek words for ‘wolf,’ lykos, and ‘man,’ anthrōpos, and either means ‘a person afflicted with lycanthropy’ or ‘werewolf’ (a word that, by the way, predates lycanthrope in the English language). The first sources – dating back to the 17th century – mention lycanthropes in the context of clinical lycanthropy, a psychiatric syndrome in which the patient thinks he or she can transform into an animal (including, but not limited to wolves).

The werewolf, or lycanthrope, is particularly widespread in European mythology, with narratives exhibiting differing characteristics from place to place and from time to time (click here for a brief introduction). The common denominator is generally the element of a man turning into bloodthirsty humanoid wolf (typically during a full moon). The origins of werewolf myths have been linked to such diseases as rabies, hypertrichosis (an infliction causing excessive hair growth informally called werewolf syndrome). Also, in medieval times, unibrows were considered a dead giveaway.

Lycanthropy, in the non-clinical sense, is a form of therianthropy – itself a subdivision of shapeshifting – which covers all transformations from human forms into animals and vice versa. Such transformations are extremely popular in mythologies around the world. In Chinese and Indian culture, for instance, we find the weretiger and in Japanese folklore there’s the tanuki.

For your reference, here are two examples using today’s wacky word:

  • The victim of a curse, he became a lycanthrope and was locked away in his cellar laboratory. (Yourdictionary)
  • The lycanthrope is a perfectly decent person, except when the skin-turning rage is upon him. (Wordnik)

As the abundance of werewolf themes in present day popular culture (not in the least in relation to Halloween) proves, lycanthropy continues to inspire and captivate people’s imaginations. What werewolf-related movies, books, etc. do you know? Don’t be shy to use the designated space below to share your favorites!

If you’re interested in learning more wacky words, make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic updates from Simply CSOFT!

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