From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Monster is a term for any number of terrifying, dangerous bizarre or whimsical legendary creatures that frequently appear in mythology, legend, and horror fiction. The word originates from the ancient Latin monstrum, meaning "omen", from the root of monere, "to warn", also meaning prodigy, miracle.
Monsters in legend
The Roman world
A monstrum is a sign or portent that disrupts the natural order as evidence of divine displeasure. The word monstrum is usually assumed to derive, as Cicero says, from the verb monstro, "show" (compare English "demonstrate"), but according to Varro it comes from moneo, "warn." Because a sign must be startling or deviant to have an impact, monstrum came to mean "unnatural event" or "a malfunctioning of nature." Suetonius said that "a monstrum is contrary to nature <or exceeds the nature> we are familiar with, like a snake with feet or a bird with four wings." The Greek equivalent was teras. The English word "monster" derived from the negative sense of the word. Compare miraculum, ostentum, portentum, and prodigium.
In one of the most famous uses of the word in Latin literature, the Augustan poet Horace calls Cleopatra a fatale monstrum, something deadly and outside normal human bounds. Cicero calls Catiline monstrum atque prodigium and uses the phrase several times to insult various objects of his attacks as depraved and beyond the human pale. For Seneca, the monstrum is, like tragedy, "a visual and horrific revelation of the truth."
- Lake monster
- Legendary creature
- List of monsters
- List of monster movies
- List of species in fantasy fiction
- Monster literature
- Monster movie
- Mythological hybrid
- Sea monster
- He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster