Nixies are female water spirits and freshwater mermaids. Their male counterparts are the Nixes. They live in societies that parallel those of humans in underwater cities and communities. Nixies, described as seductively beautiful, reputedly entice mortal men to a watery doom. Nixies typically manifest as mermaids, but they are passionate shoppers who like to frequent local markets and fairs, so that mermaid tail can get in the way. Unlike the Hans Christian Andersen tale, there’s no Little Mermaid angst regarding lack of legs for Nixies:

• When Nixies wish to walk on land, they sprout legs.

• When Nixies wish to return to their watery homes, legs are replaced with fins and tails.

Allegedly, the clue to two-legged, land-walking Nixies’ true identity is the water that they constantly drip, like a leaky faucet. Nixies are unable to ever be completely dry. Some item of their clothing is always soaked. Once upon a time, their apron strings were always soaked; now that aprons are out of style, it might be a hem, a scarf, or any item of clothing.

The word Nixy derives from the Old High German nihhusa translated as “female water sprite.” (The male is nihhus.) It may also be related to the Old English nicor; Grendel’s mother in the tale of Beowulf is described as a nicor. Nixie may also derive from an Old Irish root word for washes. Nixies may be related to the Irish deity Nechtan or to the Washers at the Ford. Various water spirits throughout Northern and Western Europe have similar names; most are considered threatening and malevolent. In Germany, Nixies are accused of switching babies, stealing the human one and replacing it with a changeling.

Nixies love music and dancing. They like to bask in the sun and comb their long hair. They are oracular spirits and can be petitioned for information however they are temperamental and thus potentially dangerous. Nixies must always be addressed very politely and courteously.




Nixies typically manifest as mermaids or as beautiful women, but they can take any shape they please. Gray horses are another favourite form.


Hair ornaments, hand mirrors, deluxe combs and brushes, gift certificates, or anything that evokes shopping


  • Each Uisge
  • Kelpie
  • Mermaid
  • Nechtan
  • Neraida
  • Nix
  • Ondine
  • Washers at the Ford


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.