It should seem easy to define the werewolf, but culturally, our understanding of werewolf has shifted as dramatically as a man’s transformation into an animal figure. In present day, we include any man-to-animal transformation under the banner of the word ‘werewolf’, despite unique cultural descriptors, or the animal in question not even closely matching the genus of ‘wolf’. For those broader examples, it is more accurate to use the word ‘shape-shifter’ or ‘shape-changer’ in general, and apply the specific cultural descriptor when relevant.

A werewolf is an individual who, whether by curse, intention, enacting taboo, or biological relation, is transformed into a half-man-half-wolf shape; a natural wolf shape; or a hulking, beastly wolf shape, typically with the movement of the moon. In the cases of intentional shape-changing, their alteration has no connection to the lunar orbit.

Werewolves are not Man-Animal Hybrids.

A werewolf is not created from a human individual having progenitive sex with a wolf and a human child being birthed as a result of it. A werewolf is not created from a human lab infusing wolvish elements into a human child, or human elements into a wolf pup. There is nothing to suggest genetic interplay in that fashion.

Werewolves are not Feral Humans.

Feral humans are humans who were abandoned by their own kind as babies or very young children and raised by animals. While the typical animal caregivers do tend to be the nurturing wolf-packs, feral humans do not actually gain the characteristics of wolves, ie, they do not compensate for exposure to the environment with growth of body hair or the development of claws and foot-pads. They do show forms of emulation in mimicry of wolf-noises, walking and running on four limbs, and eating habits, but may successfully be reintegrated into society.

Werewolves are not “Animorphs”.

Werewolves do not have the capacity to change into a variety of different animal forms. They do not gain their animal forms from close physical presence to wolves. In the case of intentional shape-changing, the proximity is considered a spiritual connection, and the changer is typically ritualistically imbued or given clothing or artifacts that enhance or produce that connection.