Dragonflies are insects that belong to the order of Odonata. Their main difference from other similar insects (such as Damselfies) is the fact that dragonflies keep their wings open, flat and away from their body while in rest. But have you ever wondered why do we call them dragonflies when, in fact, they don’t resemble dragons in any way?
Let’s find out.
One of the earliest reference to the name ‘dragonfly’ is on the book Sylva Sylvarum, or a Naturall Historie: In Ten Centuries (Classic Reprint) by Francis Bacon – an indeed fascinating read on ancient teachings, observations and experiments (Get it from Amazon). Even though we can’t be 100% sure, it’s widely believed that Bacon picked up on a very common folklore name that was used at the time. And this should come as no surprise as dragonflies were widely used in folklore throughout the world and it was believed that they once were dragons. (the article continues after the ad)
For example, in Romanian folklore the dragonfly was Saint George’s horse. According to the myth, after St. George wounded the dragon, his horse was cursed by the devil and became a giant flying insect. That’s why in the Romanian language the word dragonfly translates into Devil’s Horse. In Romanian ‘drac’ means both devil and dragon while in English, is translated to dragonfly.
In Swedish folklore, dragonflies are used by the Devil in order to weigh people’s souls. Because of the shape of their body which, with a bit of imagination, resembles a weighting tool, people believed that Devil was sending dragonflies to circle a person and get the measure of their soul. That’s why in Swedish they are called Devil’s Steelyard (Skams besman).
The reason why dragonflies inspire for the most part, negative myths, is believed to be due to their body shape which looks like a needle at the end (in fact, one of their nicknames is ‘Devil’s Darning Needle’), their erratic flight patterns and their shimmering wings.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Is Corned Beef Called ‘Corned Beef’ When It Contains No Corn?
Photo: Wikimedia, Heidelberg University
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Why are they called Dragonflies? | How did the dragonfly get its name? | Symbolism/ Meaning of a Dragonfly | Dragonfly Facts and Symbolism