here be dragons

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Evidence of the use of this term as a notation on actual historical maps is lacking. The only known appearance of an equivalent phrase in any language on a historical map is of Latin HC SVNT DRACONES (here are dragons), placed on the east coast of Asia, on the Hunt-Lenox Globe, which dates from c. 1510.[1]

Phrase[edit]

here be dragons

  1. A fanciful notation, commonly attributed to historical maps, held to indicate either the belief that unknown dangers exist in a certain location on the map, or that actual dragons can be found there.
    • 1994, Steven Henry Strogatz, Nonlinear Dynamics And Chaos: With Applications To Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering, p. 11
      It's like in those old maps of the world, where the mapmakers wrote, "Here be dragons" on the unexplored parts of the globe.
    • 2004, Nornie Campbell, No Dragons Here, p. 253:
      The awakening world scrawled ‘Here Be Dragons’ across the unknown territory.
    • 2011, Susie Vrobel, Fractal Time: Why a Watched Kettle Never Boils, p. 255:
      When the old seafarers encountered uncharted territory, they would find those blank areas on the map marked with the phrase “Here be Dragons” and the image of a sea serpent or a similarly ferocious creature.
  2. By extension, used to indicate that which is unknown or uncertain, particularly if it seems to carry some type of risk.
    • 1962, Geoffrey Fletcher, The London Nobody Knows, p. 16:
      Here be dragons in the shape of London landladies, owners of small hotels ('B. & B.') in the streets off the lower end of Euston Road. . .
    • 1987, Ritchie Calder, reported in New Scientist, Vol. 114, No. 1559, May 7, 1987, p. 61:
      . . . let me go into what was the unknown, ‘Here-be-Dragons’, hinterland of science, to find out what made scientists tick. . .
    • 1993, Incorporated Association of Organists, Organists' Review, Volume 79, Issues 309-312, p. 219:
      Speaking of money... here be dragons... Do you charge?
    • 1997, William R. Everdell, The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought, p. 191:
      Analytical philosophers mark "Here be dragons" on the part of the intellectual map that belongs to phenomenology.
    • 1997, Charles Jones, The Edinburgh history of the Scots language, p. 336:
      In undertaking such a task, I realise that I am venturing into uncharted waters, or at least waters for which only charts of the ‘here be dragons’ variety exist.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Here Be Dragons on Old Maps"