The Wyvern, or Green Dragon.

A wyvern (/ˈwvərn/ WEYE-vərn), sometimes spelled wivern, is a legendary winged creature with a dragon's head and wings; a reptilian body; two legs; and a barbed tail. A sea-dwelling variant, dubbed the sea-wyvern, has a fish tail in place of a barbed dragon's tail.

The wyvern in its various forms is important to heraldry, frequently appearing as a mascot of schools and athletic teams (chiefly in the United States and United Kingdom). It is a popular creature in European and British literature, video games, and modern fantasy. The wyvern is often (but not always) associated with cold weather and ice, and it will sometimes possess a venomous bite or have the ability to breathe fire.


The usual spelling wyvern is not attested before the 17th century as "winged two-footed dragon".[1] It is an alteration of Middle English (attested 13th century) reven, from Old French wivre (cf. French guivre and vouivre), itself from Latin vīpera, meaning 'viper', 'adder', 'asp'.[1][2]

Wyverns vs. Dragons

The wyvern has often been confused with the dragon due to the similarities between the two and due to the wyvern ultimately being a lesser-known mythical creature. However, in fantasy and heraldry, the wyvern is considered to be the distant, lesser cousin to the dragon, similar to a dog being the distant cousin to the wolf. Wyverns tend to be smaller, weaker, not as intelligent, and ultimately inferior to the much more ferocious and powerful dragon. While a dragon almost always has the capability to breathe fire (though other types of breath such as lightning have been seen as well), a wyvern will usually be unable to breathe fire. Those who can breathe fire are often termed "fire drakes" and are still considered a lesser form. Also, typically a wyvern will be unable to speak, while a dragon often does have the ability. The most distinctive difference between the two is a dragon has either zero or four legs, while a wyvern always has two legs.[3]

Various depictions in pop culture have also controversially labeled wyverns as dragons. Notable examples are the TV depiction of Game of Thrones, the 2002 film Reign of Fire,[4] the 1981 film Dragonslayer,[5] the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Harry Potter films, and the Hobbit films.[6] It could, however, be argued that the creators of these franchises can call the fictional creatures that they have created whatever they want.

In Fantasy

The wyvern features frequently in modern fantasy fiction, though its first literary appearances may have been in medieval bestiaries.[7] It appears in many works of fantasy fiction, such as Dungeons & Dragons, Final Fantasy, Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, Monster Hunter and others.

In Heraldry

The wyvern is a frequent charge in English heraldry and vexillology, also occasionally appearing as a supporter or crest.

A white (argent) wyvern formed the crest of the Borough of Leicester as recorded at the heraldic visitation of Leicestershire in 1619: A wyvern sans legs argent strewed with wounds gules, wings expanded ermine. The term sans legs may not imply that the wyvern was "without legs", rather that its legs are not depicted, being hidden or folded under.[8][9][10] This was adopted by the Midland Railway in 1845, when it became the crest of its unofficial coat of arms.[11] The company asserted that the "wyvern was the standard of the Kingdom of Mercia", and that it was "a quartering in the town arms of Leicester".[12][13][14][15] However, in 1897 the Railway Magazine noted that there appeared "to be no foundation that the wyvern was associated with the Kingdom of Mercia".[13]

The kings of Aragon of the House of Barcelona since Peter IV used a wyvern as a crest on their helmets. Nowadays this symbol has been officially adopted as the coat of arms of the Generalitat Valenciana (Valencian Parliament and Government).

The arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries depict a wyvern, symbolising disease, being overcome by Apollo, symbolising medicine.

As a Logo or Mascot

A golden wyvern is believed to have been the symbol of the medieval kingdom of Wessex.

The wyvern is also a fairly popular commercial or mascot, especially in Wales and what was once the West Country Kingdom of Wessex, but also farther afield in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, as the rivers Wye and Severn run through Hereford and Worcester respectively. For example, a local school travel company is called Wyvern Schooltours Ltd and one of the local radio stations is called Wyvern FM.[16][17] Vauxhall Motors had a model in its range in the 1950s called the Wyvern. The Westland Wyvern was a British single-seat carrier-based multi-role strike aircraft built by Westland Aircraft that served in the 1950s, seeing active service in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

In Australia, the Wyvern forms the primary aspect of the logo and crest for Newington College, an elite high school in NSW. It is also the name of the College's primary school, Wyvern Prep.

The wyvern is a frequent mascot of athletic teams, colleges and universities, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States, and is the mascot of the Korean Baseball Organization team SK Wyverns, established in 2000.


Trento-cathedral-relief with wyvern.jpg Chester Cathedral - Chorgestühl 7 Wyvern.jpg Midland arms.jpg Stjørdal komm.svg Terni-Stemma.png Coat of Arms of Sophie, Countess of Wessex.svg
A wyvern fighting with a wolf, relief, Trento Cathedral, Italy A carved wyvern on the choir stalls of Chester Cathedral in Cheshire, England, c. 1380 Arms of Midland Railway at Derby station, bearing in crest a wyvern sans legs Municipal arms of Stjørdal, Norway Municipal arms of Terni, Italy Arms of Sophie, Countess of Wessex


  1. ^ a b Hoad, T. F. (1993). English Etymology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 546. ISBN 0-19-283098-8. 
  2. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary" (Second ed.). November 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-18. [dead link]
  3. ^ Difference Between Wyvern and Dragon http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-wyvern-and-dragon/
  4. ^ Wyverns & Dragons http://moviepilot.com/posts/2013/12/16/wyverns-dragons-1202569?lt_source=external,manual
  5. ^ The Difficulty with Dragons http://cinefex.com/blog/the-difficulty-with-dragons/
  6. ^ Dragons vs. Wyverns: The Question of Smaug https://atolkienistperspective.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/dragons-vs-wyverns-the-question-of-smaug/
  7. ^ A wyvern and an elephant may be found at Harley MS 3244 (dated 13th century, after c. 1236), f.39v.
  8. ^ Geoffrey Briggs, Civic & Corporate Heraldry, London 1971
  9. ^ C. W. Scot-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, 2nd edition, London, 1953
  10. ^ A. C. Fox-Davies, The Book of Public Arms, London 1915
  11. ^ Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis, The Midland Railway, 1953
  12. ^ Frederick Smeeton Williams, The Midland Railway: Its rise and progress: A narrative of modern enterprise, 1876
  13. ^ a b The Railway Magazine, Vol. 102, 1897
  14. ^ Dow (1973)
  15. ^ Clement Edwin Stretton, History of The Midland Railway, 1901
  16. ^ "Welcome to Wyvern Schooltours". 
  17. ^ "Wyvern FM". Media UK. Retrieved 4 June 2009.