(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 Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The nymph Salmacis
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. (
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 Salmacis, in Caria, became hermaphrodites.
Some think by comparing Gen. i.27 with Gen. ii. 20-24 that Adam at first combined in himself both sexes.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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