Symbolic Meaning of Mermaids: What do Mermaids Represent?

Mermaids have been portrayed in various ways throughout history, therefore the symbolism of the mermaid depends most on the individual's interpretations of these mystical creatures. That said, below are some of the most common themes that mermaids, sirens, and other half-fish, half-human creatures represent:

Water, Swimming, the Ocean

The mermaid wouldn’t exist without her ocean. Merfolk are something of a mascot for the water and no doubt if you wear a mermaid around your neck, you have a fondness for the sea.

Femininity and Motherhood

While half-fish, half-human beings aren’t exclusively feminine, they’re mostly depicted as female. The water is often thought of as a feminine element in itself and mermaids are too considered representations of womanly power. Whether as seductresses or objects of invited attention, mermaids are desirable and usually aware of that fact. While mermaids aren’t commonly thought of as being particularly maternal, many modern mermaid fans have come to see them for representing the distinctly female state of being a mother. Motherhood is a life-changing transformation that leaves many women feeling half their old selves, and half a new person, which lends itself to the mermaid-metaphor.

Independence, Rebellion, Discernment

Mermaids may fall in love (and make rash choices when tempted by love) but at the end of the day, they are a symbol for independence and self-interest (and not in a bad way). They don’t want to be caged or forever landlocked - they crave the freedom of the sea and to swim where they please. Mermaids are also famous for only making themselves known to humans when they choose.

Temptation and Provocative Nature

Sirens especially evoke feelings of temptation and manipulation. They’ll lure you to your doom (perhaps to avenge their fish brethren that men so often hunt after). Mermaids can represent cheekiness, seductive prowess, and adoration.

Transformation and Fluidity

Mermaids reconcile two opposites states of being: water-dwelling and land-dwelling. Therefore, mermaids often come to represent times of transformation or sacrifice in our lives. Some legends hold that mermaids could move between land and sea as their discretion, so much like the water, they are fluid and changeable. 

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