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Hermaphʹrodite (4 syl.)


A human body having both sexes: a vehicle combining the structure of a wagon and cart; a flower containing both the male and female organs of reproduction. The word is derived from the fable of Hermaphʹrodiʹtus, son of Hermēs and Aphʹrodītē. The nymph Salʹmacis became enamoured of him, and prayed that she might be so closely united that “the twain might become one flesh.” Her prayer being heard, the nymph and boy became one body. (Ovid: Metamorphoses, iv. 347.)

⁂ The Romans believed that there were human beings combining in one body both sexes. The Jewish Talmud contains several references to them. An old French law allowed them great latitude. The English law recognises them. The ancient Athenians commanded that they should be put to death. The Hindûs and Chinese enact that every hermaphrodite should choose one sex and keep to it. According to fable, all persons who bathed in the fountain Salmăcis, in Carĭa, became hermaphrodites.


Some think by comparing Gen. i. 27 with Gen. ii. 20–24 that Adam at first combined in himself both sexes.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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