here be dragons

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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]


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, page 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, page 253:
      The awakening world scrawled ‘Here Be Dragons’ across the unknown territory.
    • 2011, Susie Vrobel, Fractal Time: Why a Watched Kettle Never Boils, page 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, page 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, page 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.