Lycanthropy is the transformation of a human being into a wolf.
Lycanthropy may be considered similar to metamorphosis. The term comes from ancient Greek lykánthropos (λυκάνθρωπος): λύκος, lύkos (“wolf”) + άνθρωπος, αnthrōpos (“man”). The word can also be used transitively, referring to the act of transforming someone else into a wolf, or werewolf.
The word lycanthropy is often used generically for any transformation of a human into animal form, though the precise term for that is technically therianthropy.
There are two types:
- The first type is exhibited as a mental illness in which the patient imagines himself as being a wolf or another animal and behaves accordingly. It may even includes a craving for blood. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy to distinguish it from its use in legends.
- The second type is the magical-ecstatic transformation of a person into a werewolf which is usually accomplished through the use of ointments or charms.
Becoming a werewolf simply by being bitten by another werewolf as a form of contagion is common in modern horror fiction, but this kind of transmission is rare in legend, unlike the case in vampirism.