In the world I'm creating there are two types of shapeshifters. Humans who can turn into an animal. And animals who can turn into a human.

The first group (humans who can turn into animals) are known as shapeshifters.

I would like the second group (animals who can turn into humans) to be known as something different.

Is there a generally accepted term for this type of shapeshifting that already exists?

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, these types of questions generally tend to be closed because they're opinion based, but I'd advise you to take a look at classical mythology for inspiration. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jan 16 '20 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ See Shapeshifter synonims. "Skinwalker" has a nice ring to it. $\endgroup$ – Vepir Jan 16 '20 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ I can't remember where, but I encountered the standard of inverting the specific shapeshifter title based on animal of origin. So a werewolf was a human who can become a wolf, while a wolfwere was a wolf who could take human form. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jan 16 '20 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ No, there isn't a generally accepted term. Even "shapeshifters" is not really universally understood to be the same, since you might have characters who voluntarily take different shapes (e.g., druids in D&D) and others that do not have control over it (e.g., a lot of werewolves). The former might be called "shapeshifters" to signify they have a choice and choose to do it, while werewolves or other creatures don't. That's, of course, not universal. To muddy the waters even more, some werewolves can change by choice. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 16 '20 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is pure language question. Shiftinf from human form into animal is Therianthropy. Theríon - beast, anthrĊpos - human. The other way around would be AnthrĊpotherian. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 16 '20 at 15:48

As I recall it, a human-wolf shifter who is a wolf that can turn into a human (rather than a human that turns into a wolf) is called a loup-garou in French, or a wolwere in Germanic languages (including English). I don't recall there being a more general turn for animal shifters, other than "shapeshifter". For distinction, you might call them something like "shift beasts" or "beast-men".

  • $\begingroup$ "loup-garou" has the exact same usage as "werewolf" to my knowledge. In that it can still be a human who changes to a wolf, instead of the opposite. Or it might also be wolves who turn into humans - I'm pretty sure it's been used for both of these throughout history. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 16 '20 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ The distinction between the two is somewhat hazy. Lycanthropy has been seen as a curse, a disease, etc. in European history, and in general is a human under a curse (general predates the concept of transmissible disease behind modern ideas of that term). Native Americans had some creatures (carcajou, manitou that were animal spirits that could walk in human form, and of course the selkie was a seal that took the form of a woman. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 16 '20 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Lycanthropy isn't always seen as a disease. In fact, the more well known cases are completely different. The Volsung saga has some norse men (father and son, if memory serves) turn into wolves by putting on a piece of clothing. IIRC it was a wolf cloak. That's, of course, fictional but quite old and well known. Then there are the people who were real and accused of lycanthropy. In those cases, they said they made a deal with the devil for this power. The method of turning to werewolf varied - some would have a belt, others an ointment but ultimately it wasn't viewed as transmittable disease. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 16 '20 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, this information we have from...not entirely reliable sources. The confession, if any, would be extracted from the thread or during actual torture. The time where the victim would say whatever the torturer wants to hear. However, we can definitely conclude that's what they wanted to hear and this was the general understanding of werewolfism. Oh, and there is king Lycos - the namesake of lycanthropy. He was turned into a wolf permanently by one of the gods (probably Zeus) for some offence. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 16 '20 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, and there is another sort of common way to become a werewolf - after death, usually because you were evil and/or out of hatred. Not really dissimilar to some vampires. In fact, this is how the fictional Count Dracula became one. Might be that it was influenced by other legends, including werewolf ones. The wolf of Ansbach was believed to be the former mayor who was apparently cruel and evil in life and had recently died. So, some werewolves were historically cursed but the disease thing wasn't as common. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 16 '20 at 16:05

In irish folklore, there exists a clade of creatures known as the "Puca". Pucas are intelligent animals that can shapeshift to have the characteristics of humans. It's not just a one-way transformation, though, they can look like humans with a few small animal traits, animals standing on their hind legs, or anything inbetween. They can also be benevolent or malevolent, depending on how they're treated by humans.


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