A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope (from the Greek λυκάνθρωπος: λύκος, lukos, "wolf", and άνθρωπος, anthrōpos, man), is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature, either purposely, by being bitten by another werewolf, or after being placed under a curse. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon, as popularly noted by the medieval chronicler Gervase of Tilbury, and perhaps in earlier times among the ancient Greeks through the writings of Petronius.
Werewolves are often attributed superhuman strength and senses, far beyond those of both wolves and men. Though it is endowed with all the beastly implements like stout-jaws and offensive paws that a natural wolf is most likely to use during a conflict with its enemy or prey, it has been classically known to kill the others with a dagger or a knife though bite marks are also found on the (generally) dead victim. The werewolf is generally held as a Europe character, although its lore spread through the world in later times. Shape-shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world, most notably amongst the Native American, though most of them involve animal forms other than wolves.
Werewolves are a frequent subject of modern fiction book, although fictional werewolves have been attributed traits distinct from those of original folklore, most notably vulnerability to silver bullet. Werewolves continue to endure in modern culture and fiction, with books, films and television shows cementing the werewolf's stance as a dominant figure in horror.
The word werewolf is thought to derive from Old English wer (or were)— pronounced variously as — and wulf. The first part, wer, translates as "man" (in the specific sense of male human, not the race of humanity generally). It has cognates in several Germanic languages including Gothic wair, Old High German wer, and Old Norse verr, as well as in other Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit 'vira', Latin vir, Irish fear, Lithuanian vyras, and Welsh gŵr, which have the same meaning. The second half, wulf, is the ancestor of modern English "wolf"; in some cases it also had the general meaning "beast."
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