A mermaid is a mythological creature with the head and torso of a human female, and the tail of a fish.
“Mermaid” is a compound of the Old English word for sea (“mere”), and maid, a woman. The first recorded mermaid story appeared in Assyria three thousand years ago. Over the ensuing centuries, other tales appeared in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, the 1001 Arabian Nights, and more famously, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” (1836).
During the Renaissance and Baroque eras, victims of sirenomelia were exhibited as mermaids. (Sirenomelia, also called “mermaid syndrome”, is a rare congenital disorder in which a child is born with his or her legs fused together.)
In the 19th century, PT Barnum displayed in his museum a taxidermal hoax called the Fiji mermaid. Others have perpetrated similar hoaxes, which are usually papier-mâché fabrications or parts of deceased creatures stitched together for the appearance of a grotesque mermaid.
In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, pictures of Fiji “mermaids” circulated on the Internet as supposed examples of items that had washed up amid the devastation, though they were no more real than Barnum’s original hoax.
There have been numerous claimed sightings of mermaids around the world, but nothing of any evidentiary value.
There is no evidence to support the existence of mermaids.