Different cultures (or subcultures) use several different terms for
therianthropes. This is a miniature glossary of the most important ones:
This word translates to "human shape". It describes an animal with human
characteristics. See furry.
A nordic war tribe that was said to be able to change into bears in a
fight. The word translates to "skin of a bear", probably bear pelts were
part of their war clothes.
A word originally describing a "funny (= strange) animal" in comics and
cartoons, an animal with human characteristics. The correct term would be
anthropomorphized animal, short anthromorph. In most cases the character behaves
more like a human being in an animal body, being more a theriomorph.
This has lead to much misunderstanding. The word lifestyle
apparently has the same meaning of gay in modern English, while in
German it often means "the decadence of the rich and beautiful". Furry
lifestyle, however, just means a "furry style of life". Nobody really
likes the word, it was just chosen as the word closest to what was intended
to express. Plus, there already was an alt.lifestyle.* hierarchy on Usenet,
so it was natural to choose. There is no single definition of furry
lifestyle though. For me it is just shorter to say "I'm a furry
lifestyler" than "I'm living the life of a (non-symbolical) wolf in a human
A Japanese fox spirit, can take possession of an human being who then can
turn into a fox with several (seven or nine) tails. Not an overly friendly
spirit but not not evil either.
- Loup garou
Frensh for werewolf, translates to "battle wolf".
One of the big exception to the rule that the corresponding words in other
languages are combined of the words for "man" and "wolf".
from greek lykos = wolf and anthropos = human. This is
the medical term for a human who believes being a physical wolf (or dog)
and behaving (almost) like that. Lycanthropy needs medication. However
someone certainly does not suffer from this illness if he/she is still
capable to sit in front of the monitor and write Usenet posts or create web
- Shape shifter
Originally a term for the therianthropes of North American religions, often
used to describe similar being in other cultures or in SF novels. Hence
werewolves are shape shifters as well.
The general term for humans in the shape of animals, from greek
therios = animal and anthropos = human. Either a being
combining a human shape with animal attributes (fur, tail, muzzle) or a
human able to turn into the shape of an animal (for example a werewolf).
Translates to "animal shape". Mostly used synonymous to therianthrope, see anthromorph.
From germanic wer = man, human and wulf = wolf. The
original therianthrope of Middle Europe.
A shape shifter of the original North
American cultures, a polymorph. The windigo can turn into any animal and
terrorizes the human population. As an omnivore, he sometimes likes the
taste of human flesh.
Last modified: 2010-10-10
Copyright 1997-2010 by Jörg Reuter.
The picture of the werewolf is used by kind permission of the artist.