AskDefine | Define Medusa

Dictionary Definition



1 (Greek mythology) a woman transformed into a Gorgon by Athena; she was slain by Perseus
2 any of numerous usually marine and free-swimming coelenterates that constitute the sexually reproductive forms of hydrozoans and scyphozoans [syn: jellyfish, medusan]
3 one of two forms that coelenterates take: is the free-swimming sexual stage in the life cycle of a coelenterate and has a gelatinous umbrella-shaped body and tentacles

User Contributed Dictionary

see medusa



  • IPA: /mɪˈdjuːzə/
  • AHD: mĭ'dōō'sə; mĭ'dōō'zə
    Rhymes: -uːsə



Proper noun

  1. The only mortal of the three Gorgon sisters. She is killed by Perseus. (Read more at Wikipedia)


one of the Gorgons


Proper noun

  1. Medusa.

Extensive Definition

Greek: Μέδουσα (Médousa),protect, rule over".), a sea nymph, was one of three gorgon sisters, and the most beautiful. She was courted by Poseidon, and made love to him in a temple of Athena. Furious, Athena transformed Medusa into a monstrous chthonic beast with snakes instead of hair, whose frightening face could turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded while sleeping by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until giving it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. Having coupled with Poseidon previously, two beings sprang from her body when she was beheaded. One, Pegasus, was a winged horse later tamed by Bellerophon to help him kill the chimera. The other, Chrysaor of the Golden Sword, remains relatively unknown today. In classical antiquity and today, the image of the head of Medusa finds expression in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.

Modern interpretations


In 1940, Sigmund Freud's Das Medusenhaupt (Medusa's Head) was published posthumously. This article laid the framework for his significant contribution to a body of criticism surrounding the monster. Medusa is presented as “the supreme talisman who provides the image of castration -- associated in the child's mind with the discovery of maternal sexuality -- and its rejection. The snakes are multiple phalluses and petrifaction represents the comforting erection.”


In the 20th century, feminists reassessed Medusa's appearances in literature and in modern culture, including the use of Medusa as a logo by fashion company Versace. The attack on Medusa is discussed as a potential example of violence against women or rape.
The name "Medusa" itself is often used in ways not directly connected to the mythological figure but to suggest the gorgon's abilities or to connote malevolence; despite her origins as a beauty, the name in common usage "came to mean monster." The book Female Rage: Unlocking Its Secrets, Claiming Its Power by Mary Valentis and Anne Devane notes that "When we asked women what female rage looks like to them, it was always Medusa, the snake-haired monster of myth, who came to mind ... In one interview after another we were told that Medusa is 'the most horrific woman in the world' ... [though] none of the women we interviewed could remember the details of the myth."

Medusa in art

From ancient times, the Medusa was immortalized in numerous works of art, including:
Accompanied by a revival of the legend by Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology, "Medusa had become a common theme in art" by the nineteenth century. Edward Burne-Jones' Perseus Cycle of paintings and a drawing by Aubrey Beardsley gave way to the twentieth century works of Paul Klee, John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin's bronze sculpture The Gates of Hell.


Primary sources

  • Servius, In Aeneida vi.289
  • Lucan, Bellum civile ix.624-684
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses iv.774-785, 790-801

Secondary sources

  • Jane Ellen Harrison, (1903) 3rd ed. 1922. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion,: "The Ker as Gorgon"
Medusa in Arabic: ميدوسا
Medusa in Breton: Medousa
Medusa in Bulgarian: Медуза (митология)
Medusa in Catalan: Medusa (mitologia)
Medusa in Czech: Medusa
Medusa in Danish: Medusa
Medusa in German: Medusa (Mythologie)
Medusa in Modern Greek (1453-): Μέδουσα (μυθολογία)
Medusa in Spanish: Medusa (mitología)
Medusa in Esperanto: Meduzo (mitologio)
Medusa in Persian: مدوزا
Medusa in French: Méduse (mythologie)
Medusa in Croatian: Meduza (mitologija)
Medusa in Icelandic: Medúsa
Medusa in Italian: Medusa (mitologia)
Medusa in Hebrew: מדוזה (מיתולוגיה)
Medusa in Latin: Medusa
Medusa in Lithuanian: Medūza (mitologija)
Medusa in Dutch: Medusa (mythologie)
Medusa in Japanese: メドゥーサ
Medusa in Norwegian: Medusa
Medusa in Polish: Meduza (mitologia)
Medusa in Portuguese: Medusa (mitologia)
Medusa in Romanian: Medusa
Medusa in Russian: Горгона Медуза
Medusa in Simple English: Medusa
Medusa in Slovak: Medúza (mytológia)
Medusa in Slovenian: Meduza (mitologija)
Medusa in Serbian: Медуза (митологија)
Medusa in Serbo-Croatian: Meduza (mitologija)
Medusa in Finnish: Medusa
Medusa in Swedish: Medusa
Medusa in Thai: เมดูซ่า
Medusa in Vietnamese: Medusa
Medusa in Turkish: Medusa
Medusa in Ukrainian: Медуза (міфологія)
Medusa in Chinese: 美杜莎

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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