werewolf

noun

plural werewolves ˈwer-ˌwu̇lvz How to pronounce werewolf (audio) ˈwir- How to pronounce werewolf (audio)
ˈwər-
: a person transformed into a wolf or capable of assuming a wolf's form

Did you know?

Although English sometimes makes use of other words for howling humanoid beasties, werewolf is the leader of the pack. It’s also an ancient word, tracing all the way back to the Old English werwulf, and before that to a prehistoric predecessor that also left its paw prints on German (Werwolf) and Dutch (weerwolf). Synonyms for werewolf in English include the obscure lycanthrope, which has roots in two Greek words (lykos, meaning "wolf," and anthrōpos, meaning "human being"), and loup-garou, which comes from Old French. Whichever you use, the lycanthropic creatures these words refer to most often assume wolf form during a full moon—at least in works of fiction. There are no credible studies to date on the behavior of real-life werewolves, as scientists have yet to find the silver bullet that proves they exist.

Examples of werewolf in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Baring-Gould, who had fifteen children and kept a tame bat, wrote more than a thousand literary works, including some thirty novels, a biography of Napoleon, and an influential study of werewolves. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 4 May 2024 In fact, the abrupt and ignoble death of his fan-favorite character, the hunky werewolf Alcide Herveaux, early in the final season of the HBO show left him eager to make up for it. Jessica Wang, EW.com, 13 Mar. 2024 Posey played Scott McCall, a normal teen simply trying to navigate his way through high school until he was bitten by a werewolf, further complicating his chances of fitting in while also fighting crime in his hometown. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 26 Mar. 2024 The director started thinking about the project a decade ago while working at Glass Eye Pix, the film company founded by director and indie horror legend Larry Fessenden (Habit, the upcoming werewolf movie Blackout). Clark Collis, EW.com, 13 Nov. 2023 The series is set in Bon Temps, Louisiana, where vampires, werewolves and more mystical creatures roamed rampant. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 19 Mar. 2024 Along with Donnelly and Manheim, Chandler Kinney and Kylee Russell will return as werewolf Willa and zombie Eliza. Joe Otterson, Variety, 10 Feb. 2024 Remus Lupin, Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and werewolf. Monica Mercuri, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Think 2008's Twilight was the first movie in which vampires warred with werewolves? Clark Collis, EW.com, 19 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'werewolf.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Old English werwulf (akin to Old High German werwolf werewolf), from wer man + wulf wolf — more at virile, wolf

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of werewolf was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Werewolf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/werewolf. Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

werewolf

noun
plural werewolves -ˌwu̇lvz How to pronounce werewolf (audio)
: a person changed or able to change into a wolf
Etymology

Old English werwulf "werewolf," from wer "man" and wulf "wolf"

Word Origin
Many countries have legends about people who changed into savage wolflike creatures. Often these people were thought to keep their human shape during the day. At night, however, they were transformed into hungry monsters that killed and then ate their human victims. A full moon was sometimes seen as the force that turned people into werewolves. People who changed into these monsters were thought to have inherited the condition or to have been bitten by another werewolf. No one is sure how these stories got started or why so many different groups of people believed in them. We are sure, though, that Modern English werewolf comes from Old English werwulf, a compound of wer, meaning "man," and wulf, "wolf."

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