Wyvern (/ˈwaɪvərn/, /ˈwɪvərn/, more rarely also Wivern) is the name for a type of representation of heraldic dragons in English.

Unlike other dragons in heraldry, wyverns have two legs, wings, and a serpentine rear end that is spiked. Figuratively, the word is used for any pictorial or figurative representation of dragons that is modeled after the heraldic dragon. Consequently, wyverns are nevertheless counted among dragons and differentiated only on the basis of heraldry.

Wyvern's Etymology

The word Wyvern has been attested since the 17th century with the meaning "bipedal dragon with wings", it derives from Middle English wyvere, wyver (13th century), which is itself derived from Old French wivre (French guivre and vouivre). The Old French word derives from Latin vipera (viper). The "V" evolved into "W" in Old French through Old Low Franconian influence (→ Old High German wipera).

Wyvern Representation in modern fantasy

In addition, Wyvern is used as a generic or species name for dragons in fantasy literature and films, as well as in computer and pen & paper role-playing games. When authors wish to distinguish them from intelligent and/or magic-gifted dragon creatures, wyverns, unlike dragons, are often described as animals that are not intelligent and are smaller.

They then lack, for example, dragon typical attributes such as the ability to fly or breathe fire; on the other hand, a dangerous tail spike is occasionally attributed to them. Details in appearance and behavior vary depending on the fantasy author or game.