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Fragments from Floyd

Devil’s Horse

I wish internet research wasn’t so much fun. I have work to do.

Wait a minute: I AM working–on a piece for the Floyd Press column for July 5–about my favorite insects of summer. One happens to be the “dragonfly” and I’m surprised I hadn’t wondered about this before:

Where did the name ‘dragonfly’ originate?

Answer: We have not been able to find a definitive answer to this question. One interesting theory about its origin, however, can be found in a book written by Eden Emanuel Sarot in 1958 entitled Folklore of the Dragonfly: A Linguistic Approach.

He theorized that the name dragonfly actually came about because of an ancient Romanian Folktale. In the folktale, the Devil turned a beautiful horse ridden by St. George (of St. George and the dragon fame) into a giant, flying insect.

The Romanian names the people supposedly referred to this giant insect (when translated into English) mean ‘St. George’s Horse’ or, more commonly, ‘Devil’s Horse.’ According to Sarot, the peasantry of that time actually viewed the Devil’s Horse as a giant fly and that they may have started referring to it as the ‘Devil’s Fly’ (instead of Devil’s Horse).

He stated that the Romanian word for Devil was “drac,” but that drac was also the Romanian word for dragon. He thought that eventually the Romanian name for the Devil’s Fly was erroneously translated to the English Dragon Fly and this eventually evolved into the “dragonfly!” from

7 thoughts on “Devil’s Horse”

  1. We were afraid of dragonflies when we were kids. I think we called them sewing needles and thought they would sew us up. I wonder if that was a regional or a family thing.

  2. No, apparently this folk lore goes way, way back. I never heard it. Some of the dragonflies are still called “darners” and if you watch them laying their eggs just before the surface of the water, they do put one to mind of a loom with the shuttle dipping down and up.

    I think it is because these insects seem somehow “wise” that so much folk story has become associated with them.


  3. We called them snake doctors when I was a kid in north Georgia. I don’t know where that came from, probably from my parents who got it from their parents and so on.

  4. I’ve noticed in these parts there are always at least a few about, even in winter. For us though, they were always dragonflies…

  5. I like dragonflies, too…as long as they are the silver ones I wear as earrings and a necklace. 🙂

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