AskDefine | Define dragon

Dictionary Definition



1 a creature of Teutonic mythology; usually represented as breathing fire and having a reptilian body and sometimes wings [syn: firedrake]
2 a fiercely vigilant and unpleasant woman [syn: tartar]
3 a faint constellation twisting around the north celestial pole and lying between Ursa Major and Cepheus [syn: Draco]
4 any of several small tropical Asian lizards capable of gliding by spreading winglike membranes on each side of the body [syn: flying dragon, flying lizard]

User Contributed Dictionary

commons Dragon



From etyl fro dragon, from etyl la draco, from etyl grc sc=polytonic, probably from sc=polytonic, aorist active infinitive of sc=polytonic.


  • , /ˈdrægən/, /"dr

Extensive Definition

The dragon is a mythical creature of which some interpretation or depiction appears in almost every culture worldwide. The physical description and supposed abilities of the creature vary immensely according to the different cultures in which it appears. However, the unifying feature of almost all interpretations is it being a serpentine or otherwise reptilian monster (or at least possessing a serpentine/reptilian part or trait), and often possessing magical or spiritual qualities.
The two most familiar interpretations of dragons are either European dragons, derived from various European folk traditions, or unrelated Oriental dragons, derived from the Chinese dragon (lóng). The word "dragon" derives from Greek δράκων (drakōn), "a serpent of huge size, a python, a dragon" and that from the verb δέρκομαι (derkomai) "to see clearly".


Like most mythological creatures, dragons are perceived in different ways by different cultures. Dragons are sometimes said to breathe and spit fire or poison. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically feathered or scaly bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having large yellow or red eyes, a feature that is the origin for the word for dragon in many cultures. They are sometimes portrayed with a row of dorsal spines, keeled scales, or leathery bat-like wings. Winged dragons are usually portrayed only in European dragons while Oriental versions of the dragon resemble large snakes. Dragons can have a variable number of legs: none, two, four, or more when it comes to early European literature. Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans.
Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label.
Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many East Asian cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. They are associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.
The term dragoon, for infantry that move around by horse yet still fight as foot soldiers, is derived from their early firearm, the "dragon", a wide-bore musket that spat flame when it fired, and was thus named for the mythical creature.


In Jewish religious texts, the first mention of a dragon-like creature is in the Biblical works of Job (26:13), and Isaiah (27:1) where it is called Nachash Bare'ach, or a "Pole Serpent". This is identified in the Midrash Rabba to Genesis 1:21 as Leviathan from the word Taninim and God created the great sea-monsters.
In Jewish astronomy this is also identified with the North Pole, the star Thuban which, around 4,500 years ago, was the star in the Draco constellation's "tail". Hebrew writers from Arabic-speaking locations identified the Teli as Al Jaz'har, which is a Persian word for a "knot" or a "node" because of the intersection of the inclination of the orbit of a planet from the elliptic that forms two such nodes. In modern astronomy these are called the ascending node and the descending node, but in the medieval astronomy they were referred to as "dragon's head" and "dragon's tail".


In Ancient Greece the first mention of a dragon is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate.


In the biblical book the Revelation of John, Satan is portrayed as a dragon that can emit a flood of water from its mouth.Bible verse |Revelation|12:16|NIV. Dragons are also commonly a part of the legends of several early Christian Saints, most famously Saint George.


Chinese dragons (), and Oriental dragons generally, are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are usually malevolent though there are exceptions (one exception being Y Ddraig Goch, The Red Dragon of Wales). Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia (see Azhi Dahaka) and Russia, among other places.
Dragons are particularly popular in China and the 5-clawed dragon was a symbol of the Chinese emperors, with the phoenix or fenghuang the symbol of the Chinese empress. Dragon costumes manipulated by several people are a common sight at Chinese festivals.


Aži Dahāka is the source of the modern Persian word azhdahā or ezhdehā اژدها (Middle Persian azdahāg) meaning "dragon", often used of a dragon depicted upon a banner of war.

Modern Literature

There are numerous examples of dragons in modern literature, especially the fantasy genre.
In the 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, the major antagonist is a dragon named Smaug. Smaug hordes a great treasure but is ultimately defeated by a band of dwarves, the "men of the lake" and a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.
Dragons play an important role in the Harry Potter series of novels by J. K. Rowling. In the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid, the Hogwarts grounds-keeper, owns a baby dragon of a species called "Norwegian Ridgeback". In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire one of the three events the contestants for the tri-wizard tournament involves successfully taking a Golden egg from a Dragon, in Harry's case "a Hungarian Horntail". In the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry has to overcome a blind dragon guarding the treasure in the vaults of the wizarding bank, Gringots.
Dragonriders of Pern is an extensive fantasy/science fiction series of novels and short stories primarily written by Anne McCaffrey. Since 2004, McCaffrey's son Todd McCaffrey has also published Pern novels, both in collaboration with Anne and on his own. The Pernese use intelligent firebreathing dragons who have a telepathic bond with their riders, formed by mental impressions the dragons receive at the time they hatch from their eggs.
The concept of a dragon bonding at birth with its rider was explored more recently in the 2003 fantasy novel and subsequent motion picture, Eragon, which features a teen-aged boy by that name and a young dragon named Saphira. Eragon becomes a Dragon Rider, a magical dragon riding hero, who helps to overthrow an evil and despotic king.

Speculation on the origin of dragons

Dragons may be mental representations of natural human fears of snakes, wildcats, birds of prey, as well as teeth, claws, size, and even venom blending with fear of wildfire.
Others believe that the dragon may have had a real counterpart from which the various legends arose — typically dinosaurs or other archosaurs are mentioned as a possibility — but there is no physical evidence to support this claim, only alleged sightings collected by cryptozoologists. Loren Coleman argues that monitor lizards were the basis of some dragon tales and that the breath of the dragon is the fantastic imagery of the steam from the warm Montane Valley monitors emerging from a body of water into the cold air of some Asian locations.
Dinosaur and mammalian fossils were occasionally mistaken for the bones of dragons and other mythological creatures — for example, a discovery in 300 BC in Wucheng, Sichuan, China, was labeled as such by Chang Qu.

Dragons in world mythology



  • Angels and demons in art
  • Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling
  • Drury, Nevill, The Dictionary of the Esoteric, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2003 ISBN 8120819896
  • Freedman, Rabbi Dr. H. (translation), Simon M., editor, Midrash Rabbah: Genesis, Volume one, The Soncino Press, London, 1983

Further reading

  • Knight, Peter. "Sacred Dorset - On the Path of the Dragon", 1998.
  • Dragons: a natural history
  • A Book of Dragons
dragon in Arabic: تنين
dragon in Aragonese: Dragón
dragon in Bosnian: Zmaj (mitologija)
dragon in Bulgarian: Дракон
dragon in Catalan: Drac
dragon in Czech: Drak
dragon in Tumbuka: Vereni
dragon in Welsh: Draig
dragon in Danish: Drage (fabeldyr)
dragon in German: Drache (Mythologie)
dragon in Modern Greek (1453-): Δράκοντας
dragon in Spanish: Dragón
dragon in Esperanto: Drako (mitologio)
dragon in Persian: اژدها
dragon in French: Dragon (mythologie)
dragon in Croatian: Zmaj
dragon in Indonesian: Naga
dragon in Icelandic: Dreki (goðsagnavera)
dragon in Italian: Drago
dragon in Hebrew: דרקון
dragon in Cornish: Dragon
dragon in Kurdish: Ejdiya
dragon in Latin: Draco
dragon in Latvian: Pūķis
dragon in Luxembourgish: Draach (Mythologie)
dragon in Hungarian: Sárkány
dragon in Malay (macrolanguage): Naga
dragon in Dutch: Draak (fabeldier)
dragon in Japanese: ドラゴン
dragon in Norwegian: Drage
dragon in Narom: Dragon
dragon in Occitan (post 1500): Dragon
dragon in Oromo: Dragon
dragon in Polish: Smok
dragon in Portuguese: Dragão
dragon in Romanian: Dragon
dragon in Russian: Дракон
dragon in Scots: Draigon
dragon in Simple English: Dragon
dragon in Slovak: Drak
dragon in Serbo-Croatian: Zmaj
dragon in Finnish: Lohikäärme
dragon in Swedish: Drake
dragon in Tagalog: Dragon
dragon in Thai: มังกร
dragon in Vietnamese: Rồng
dragon in Turkish: Ejderha
dragon in Ukrainian: Змій
dragon in Contenese: 西洋龍
dragon in Chinese: 龙 (西方)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Argus, Briareus, Cerberus, Charybdis, Cyclops, Echidna, Gila monster, Gorgon, Harpy, Hydra, Loch Ness monster, Mafioso, Medusa, Minotaur, Pegasus, Python, Scylla, Sphinx, Talos, Tartar, Typhon, Young Turk, agama, alligator, anole, bear, bearded lizard, beast, beldam, berserk, berserker, blindworm, bomber, box turtle, brute, butterfly agama, cayman, centaur, chameleon, chimera, cockatrice, crank, crocodile, crosspatch, demon, devil, diamondback, drake, false map turtle, feist, fiend, fire-eater, firebrand, flying dragon, fury, gavial, gecko, girdle-tailed lizard, glass snake, goon, gorilla, green turtle, griffin, grizzly bear, grouch, gunsel, hardnose, hawksbill, hawksbill turtle, hell-raiser, hellcat, hellhound, hellion, hippocampus, holy terror, hood, hoodlum, hothead, hotspur, iguana, incendiary, killer, leatherback, lizard, mad dog, madcap, matamata, mermaid, merman, monitor, monster, mugger, nixie, ogre, ogress, rapist, revolutionary, roc, salamander, satyr, savage, sea horse, sea serpent, sea turtle, she-wolf, siren, soft-shelled turtle, sorehead, spitfire, stump tail, teju, termagant, terrapin, terror, terrorist, tiger, tigress, tortoise, tough, tough guy, troll, tuatara, turtle, ugly customer, unicorn, vampire, violent, virago, vixen, werewolf, wild beast, windigo, witch, wolf, xiphopagus, zombie
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