In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide and are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other traditions, they can be benevolent or beneficent. The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore.
Historical accounts of mermaids, such as those reported by Christopher Columbus during his exploration of the Caribbean, may have been inspired by manatees and similar aquatic mammals. While there is no evidence that mermaids exist outside folklore, reports of mermaid sightings continue to the present day.