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In folklore, a werewolf is a human with the capacity to shapeshift into a wolf, either purposely or after being positioned underneath a curse or pain (often a bite or scratch from any other werewolf) and especially on the night of a full moon.

The werewolf is a big thinking in European folklore, present in many variants, which are related by means of a frequent improvement of a Christian interpretation of underlying European folklore developed throughout the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolves developed in parallel to the belief in witches, in the direction of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early fifteenth century and spread at some stage in Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding via the 18th century.

The persecution of werewolves and the related folklore is an fundamental phase of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of lycanthropy being concerned in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) have been combined with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (1589) led to a sizable peak in each hobby in and persecution of supposed werewolves, notably in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon continued longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the ultimate instances taking region in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.

After the end of the witch-trials, the werewolf grew to be of hobby in folklore research and in the emerging Gothic horror genre; werewolf fiction as a style has pre-modern precedents in medieval romances (e.g. Bisclavret and Guillaume de Palerme) and developed in the 18th century out of the "semi-fictional" chap e book tradition. The trappings of horror literature in the twentieth century grew to be part of the horror and fable genre of cutting-edge popular culture.

The word werewolf continues a late Old English werwulf, a compound of had been "man" and wulf "wolf". The solely Old High German testimony is in the shape of a given name, Weriuuolf, though an early Middle High German werwolf is located in Burchard of Worms and Berthold of Regensburg. The phrase or concept does not occur in medieval German poetry or fiction, gaining reputation only from the fifteenth century. Middle Latin gerulphus Anglo-Norman garwalf, Old Frankish *wariwulf. Old Norse had the cognate varúlfur, however due to the fact of the high significance of werewolves in Norse mythology, there were alternative phrases such as ulfhéðinn ("one in wolf-skin", referring nevertheless to the totemistic or cultic adoption of wolf-nature as a substitute than the superstitious belief in actual shape-shifting). In cutting-edge Scandinavian also kveldulf "evening-wolf", presumably after the identify of Kveldulf Bjalfason, a historic berserker of the 9th century who figures in the Icelandic sagas.

The term lycanthropy, referring both to the ability to radically change oneself into a wolf and to the act of so doing, comes from Ancient Greek λυκάνθρωπος lukánthropos (from λύκος lúkos "wolf" and ἄνθρωπος, ánthrōpos "human"). The phrase does occur in ancient Greek sources, however only in Late Antiquity, only rarely, and solely in the context of clinical lycanthropy described by means of Galen, the place the patient had the ravenous urge for food and other traits of a wolf; the Greek word attains some forex solely in Byzantine Greek, offering in the 10th-century encyclopedia Suda. Use of the Greek-derived lycanthropy in English occurs in learned writing starting in the later sixteenth century, at first explicitly for clinical lycanthropy, i.e. the type of madness where the affected person imagines to have converted into a wolf, and not in reference to supposedly actual shape-shifting. Use of lycanthropy for supposed shape-shifting is plenty later, delivered ca. 1830.

Slavic makes use of the term vlko-dlak (Polish wilkołak, Czech vlkodlak, Slovak vlkolak, Serbo-Croatian вукодлак - vukodlak, Slovenian volkodlak, Bulgarian върколак/vrkolak, Belarusian ваўкалак/vaukalak, Ukrainian вовкулака/vovkulaka), actually "wolf-skin", paralleling the Old Norse ulfhéðinn. However, the phrase is not attested in the medieval period. The Slavic time period used to be loaned into contemporary Greek as Vrykolakas. Baltic has related terms, Lithuanian vilkolakis and vilkatas, Latvian vilkatis and vilkacis. The title vurdalak (вурдалак) for the Slavic vampire ("ghoul, revenant") is a corruption due to Alexander Pushkin, which used to be later broadly spread by means of A.K. Tolstoy in his novella The Family of the Vourdalak (composed in French, however first published in Russian translation in 1884).

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