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A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, and the Chinese dragon, with counterparts in Japan, Korea and other East Asian countries.
While in modern and middle aged tales dragons are connected with fire, in old mythologies dragons are connected to water. Unlike in European dragons who are picture to be evil, most of the Asian dragons are kind hearted.
The word dragon entered the English language in the early 13th century from Old French dragon, which in turn comes from Latin draconem (nominative draco) meaning "huge serpent, dragon," from the Greek word δράκων, drakon (genitive drakontos, δράκοντος) "serpent, giant seafish". The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpent, not necessarily mythological, and this usage was also current in English up to the 18th century.
The words "snake" and "dragons" in most cultures have the same root form.
In Ancient Greece the first mention of a "dragon" is derived from the Iliad where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and an emblem of a three-headed dragon on his breast plate. However, the Greek word used (δράκων drákōn, genitive δράκοντοϛ drákontos) could also mean "snake".
European dragons exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. Dragons are generally depicted as living in rivers or having an underground lair or cave. They are commonly described as having hard or armoured hide, and are rarely described as flying, despite often being depicted with wings. European dragons are usually depicted as evil beings.
In Slavic mythology, the words “zmey”, "zmiy" or "zmaj" are used to describe dragons. These words are masculine forms of the Slavic word for "snake", which are normally feminine (like Russian zmeya). In Romania, there is a similar figure, derived from the Slavic dragon and named zmeu. Exclusively in Polish and Belarusian folklore, as well as in the other Slavic folklores, a dragon is also called (variously) смок, цмок, or smok. In South Slavic folklores, the same thing is also called lamya (ламйа, ламjа, lamja). Although quite similar to other European dragons, Slavic dragons have their peculiarities.
Russian dragons usually have heads in multiples of three. Some have heads that grow back if every single head isn't cut off. In Ukraine and Russia, a particular dragon-like creature, Zmey Gorynych, has three heads and spits fire. According to one bylina, Zmey Gorynych was killed by bogatyr Dobrynya Nikitich.
In China, depiction of the dragon (traditional:龍;simplified:龙) can be found in artifacts from the Shang and Zhou dynasties with examples dating back to the 16th century BC. Archaeologist Zhōu Chong-Fa believes that the Chinese word for dragon is an onomatopoeia of the sound thunder makes. The Chinese name for dragon is pronounced "lóng" in Mandarin Chinese or "lùhng" in the Cantonese. Sometime after the 9th century AD, Japan adopted the Chinese dragon through the spread of Buddhism.
Japanese dragons (日本の竜 Nihon no ryū) are diverse legendary creatures in Japanese mythology and folklore. Japanese dragon myths amalgamate native legends with imported stories about dragons from China, Korea and India. The style of the dragon was heavily influenced by the Chinese dragon. Like these other Asian dragons, most Japanese ones are water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water, and are typically depicted as large, wingless, serpentine creatures with clawed feet. The modern Japanese language has numerous "dragon" words, including indigenous tatsu from Old Japanese ta-tu, Sino-Japanese ryū or ryō 竜 from Chinese lóng 龍, nāga ナーガ from Sanskrit nāga, and doragon ドラゴン from English "dragon".
Vietnamese dragons (Vietnamese: rồng) are symbolic creatures in the folklore and mythology of Vietnam. According to an ancient creation myth, the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon and a fairy. To Vietnamese people, the dragon brings rain, essential for agriculture. It represents the emperor, the prosperity and power of the nation.Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang, representing the universe, life, existence, and growth.
There are five distinguishable dragons in the Monster High universe: Jinafire Long and Sylphia Flapper, who are sapient dragons, and Smokey, the Facebook dragon, and the pool dragon, who are pet dragons. There is also a dragon included in the Create-A-Monster lineup. It is known that most dragon characters have the ability to breath fire unlike in both Asian and European myths of dragons. According to Ghoulfriends Forever, European dragons are inherently scale- and tailless, but they have a deep desire to own a lair.