- A Load of Bull — the Minotaur, now often the name for an entire species of bovine humanoids.
- Medusa — while there always at least three gorgons, Medusa was the personal name of just one of them.
- The Phoenix
- Feathered Serpent — the original was a single god worshipped by a number of mesoamerican peoples.
open/close all folders
- A particularly common type of OC within Kirby fanon is a lookalike of the titular character, usually of a color different than the pink hero (but not always) and who may or may not be wearing a hat. As the species have no official name, many had taken the likening of calling them "Kirbies" after the pink puffball himself, and some of them consider Meta Knight and Galacta Knight to be ones themselves simply because of their uncanny resemblance to Kirby (and, in Meta Knight's case, has been revealed to have a face similar to Kirby's under his mask).
- Yoda from Star Wars probably deserves a mention here, since his species name was never revealed, and any other member that shows up is invariably referred to as "a yoda". George Lucas himself is said not to want the species named note , and so it's almost universally referred to as 'Yoda's Species'. At one point he was even reluctant to allow any other characters of Yoda's Species to be introduced, and even after relenting on this very few others have appeared. Apparently he hasn't shared his reasoning for why Yoda's background should be so mysterious.
- Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh is a good example of this trope. When Pooh asks what he is on meeting him, he says he is "The One and Only Tigger". However, The Tigger Movie is entirely about subverting this trope in the most heart-wrenching way possible.
- Frankenstein: There are dozens of different kinds of Golems and reanimated humans, but Frankenstein's Monster has become a catch-all term for them all.
- Sometimes in The Moomins stories, one isn't sure if the word used to refer to a particular creature is its personal name or the name of its species. This is often academic if that is the only example we meet. The most obvious example is the Hemulen — later stories establish there are definitely other Hemulens, such as the Park Keeper, and it's not even clear if "the" Hemulen is even always the same one. (There are almost certainly at least two Fillyjonks referred to as "the" Fillyjonk in different books.)
- The Chimera was a unique creature, a child of Echidna and Typhoeos (aka Typhon) in one version of the Greek myth. It's now synonymous with Mix-and-Match Critters (and has a similar meaning in Real Life genetics), and various fantasy games such as Dungeons & Dragons include a species of monster inspired by the original individual.
- Empusa was originally a daughter of Hecate with flaming hair who seduced men before drinking their blood and eating them. She was eventually demoted in mythology to a class of spirits called empuse, who served Hecate by guarding roads against unwanted travelers. Later, they were further demoted to a kind of hobgoblin that bothers Greek farmers in the form of various animals.
- Empusa's other parent, Mormo, was similarly a single spirit who bit bad children that was generalized in to the Mormolyceion.
- The Hydra — again, the original myth has it as a singular creature (another child of Echidna and Typhon, incidentally, meaning it and the Chimera were technically sisters) so tough that it took Heracles a labor to beat, yet it is often a random encounter in many a Role-Playing Game (though usually not a weak encounter). Lexicographically, "Hydra" just means water serpent, and is also the name of a genus of tiny underwater animals. The Hydra of Greek myth was more formally known as the Lernaean Hydra.
- Lamia was a queen of Libya who became a child eating demon in Greek mythology. Over time she came to be generalized into a broad category of succubi, vampires, and other monsters called lamiae. It also became a name for witches and harlots. "Lamia" or "Lamiae" in the Neo Classical sense are usually described as: a) demon women who change into snakes, b) demon snakes that change into women or c) strange half-woman half-snake demon things. The last is by far the most common in Japanese pop-culture, and sometimes they are not even demonic at all. They are also very, very clingy.
- Medusa was only one of three Gorgons, her sisters being Stheno and Euryale.
- The God of War series alternately refers to the monsters as Medusas or Gorgons, but Euryale is fought in the second game.
- Stheno was a random encounter in (of all things) Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, the super-short kiddie-lite version of Final Fantasy.
- Magic: The Gathering had a creature with the type Medusa in an early expansion, but all Gorgons released since have been typed as such (and that earlier Medusa is now legally one too).
- Stheno is also a boss encounter (a leader of naga-like snake people) in City of Villains.
- NetHack also gets it right in that "Medusa" is a boss and there is only one of her. Better yet, her lair includes a statue of Perseus...
- Ditto several Castlevania games, which almost makes up for having "Medusa heads" as mooks in almost every installment.
- Averted in The Kindly Ones arc of The Sandman, where Lyta meets the two remaining sisters who are still in mourning for Medusa.
- They also show up (or at least images of them do) in Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, though like Medusa before they assumed their monstrous forms.
- Medusas are a monster race in Dungeons & Dragons, apparently female-only; the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual included a male-only version with the power to restore petrified things to normal, suggesting they were a single species dovetailing their abilities. Since this was stupid and reduced the terrifying impact of the medusa, they are almost uniformly forgotten or ignored. 4th edition adds male medusas back. They don't have snake hair and have a venomous gaze instead of a petrifying one. Gorgons, meanwhile, are metal-headed bulls that breathe petrifying gas.
- The "bull" version of the gorgon probably originates from Edward Topsell's 1607 zoological text, The Historie of Foure Footed Beasts, where he uses the term 'gorgon' to refer to a creature with metallic scales and extremely poisonous breath, which seems to roughly correspond to what Pliny described as 'catoblepas' (which itself may have originally been a very distorted description of a wildebeest). The D&D version may include some cross-pollination from the fire-breathing Bronze Bulls that Jason and the Argonauts had to deal with.
- Pardus has a jellyfish-like species named Medusanote for its petrifying abilities... and its stronger relatives, Stheno and Euryale.
- As of Unseen Academicals there's "a Medusa" in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch (although previous references in Guards! Guards! and Feet of Clay talked about gorgons).
- Warhammer has both Gorgons ("Ghorgons", in the Beastmen army) and Medusae ("Bloodwrack Medusae" in the Dark Elf army). The latter are the common snake-bodied, snake-haired she-monster type (though their gaze causes rapid exsanguination, rather then petrifaction), while the former are savage many-armed forest giants similar to giant mutant minotaurs. In fact both are derived from mythological roots — originally a Gorgon (a name which, in Greek, simply means "terrifying") was just a savage lumbering beast, akin to the Middle-Eastern Humbaba. It was only later that the word became attached to Medusa and her sisters, and became their species name.
- Heroes of Might and Magic 3 also has both gorgons and medusas, in different alignments.
- The Minotaur was originally — again — a unique monster, the result of an affair between Minos' wife in a sex-bot shaped like a cow and a magical bull from out of the ocean. Granted, this one does make some sense at least: "Minotaur" means bull of Minos, and in some versions the original Minotaur's proper name was Asterion, which would kind of make "Minotaur" even more of a descriptive, species-like name in the first place.
- Inverted in Oedipus the King: Sophocles, who was familiar with the many unique monsters in Greek mythology, treats "the Sphinx" as a unique monster. However, in Egyptian mythology where he took inspiration for the creature, sphinxes are a species with many members.
- Pegasus. There was only the one in myth, but has since become synonymous with pterippi ("wing-horse"), or Pegasi, or "pegasoids". Interestingly, Pegasus was more or less Medusa's son... and Poseidon's. Poseidon fell in love with Medusa and the two slept together in Athena's temple, Medusa becoming impregnated in the process. Athena was furious and she turned Medusa into a Gorgon as a curse (Medusa's sisters shared in her punishment because they helped Medusa sneak Poseidon in.) When Perseus cut off Medusa's head, Pegasus was born out of her neck.
- Eventually, Roman folklore did end up including an actual species of winged horses, the Ethiopian pegasi (Pegasi Aethiopici), which supposedly lived in subsaharan Africa and showed up with some regularity in Roman and medieval bestiaries. They also had the peculiarity of possessing antelope-like horns, but good luck finding any pegasi in modern fiction with that trait.
- In Dungeons & Dragons (older versions at least), each Medusa killed has a chance of spawning a Pegasus in this way.
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Pegasi are stated to be descendants of the original Pegasus (who is immortal). The original is mentioned several times, and his twin brother Chrysaor (who is not a winged horse, but humanoid, also immortal) appears as well. The original, unique winged horse shows up in the last book of The Heroes of Olympus.
- A third of the ponies in all generations of My Little Pony are Pegasi, sometimes referred to as Pegasus ponies.
- "Dracula" has been occasionally used as a synonym for "vampire" since Bram Stoker's work was published, usually in a playful context. For example, in Desmond Dekker's 1964 humorous song "Dracula", he warns the listener "Do not fall in love for that girl, she is a Dracula."
- Krampus is a single, one-of-a-kind creature in Germanic mythology, but an entire race in Hungarian folklore, with at least 4 named individuals.
- Depending on the story, The Phoenix is often portrayed as being mortal, but only one existing at a time, usually reborn from its own ashes. Other times, it's a more simple example of this trope, with several existing even if they are all periodically reborn. The same sometimes applies to the unicorn, but that would be more of an inversion, since unicorns were originally an imagined species of animal.
- Some authors try to get around this by calling them "firebirds" as though they were a separate species, and sometimes cutting out the immortality piece. (Note: the "Firebird" of Russian fairytales is the only one of her kind)
- The Discworld demonstrates them as a species that migrate together, causing auroras in the sky, and explaining that one of anything couldn't last long, especially in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink world where everything has predators.
- In the Marvel Universe, it's sometimes been claimed that there's not only just one Phoenix in the universe, but only one across all universes. Though given that such a concept makes it hard to do What If? stories about The Dark Phoenix Saga (one of the most iconic of all X-Men stories and thus fertile ground for alternate retellings, they seem to have quietly retconned that idea years ago. And even within the main Marvel Universe the "only one Phoenix" concept is kind of cheapened by the fact that fragments of the Phoenix can be split off and still have vast power, and the Phoenix can take on more than one human host simultaneously.
- In most, if not all, pre-Columbian mesoamerican mythologies, there was only one Feathered Serpent, the serpent god known as Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs, Kukulkan by the Yucatec Maya, and Q'uq'umatz by the K'iche' Maya. In modern fiction, it has become very common for the terms "feathered serpent" or "coatl" to refer to an entire species of snake-bird chimeric beings, more often than not simply magical beasts or a species of relatively weak (i.e., mortal-level) intelligent beings.
- Heartland Pro Wrestling's Shark Boy, who became popular in various IWA promotions, OVW, WCW and more eventually found himself a Shark Girl. In TNA it was eventually revealed there was a whole family of Shark Boys and Shark Girls. More Shark Girls have shown up in SHINE and another Shark Boy popped up in IWRG and CMLL.
- Meta-example: 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons included six varieties of demons in its Monster Manual, each one designated as "Type 1", "Type 2", etc. These type designations were also accompanied by the parenthetical names of infamous members of their type, such as "Balor" or "Vrock". When later editions abandoned the "Type __" naming system, the game's writers simply re-named each of the six varieties after these examples, so the "Type 1 demon" became the "vrock", etc. The Tarrasque is a variant. Almost every setting has one at most (hence why it is the Tarrasque)... but since many of the settings are at least nominally connected, that means there are multiple Tarrasque, you just wouldn't see more than one at a timenote
- Honorable mention to Uncle Istvan from Magic: The Gathering, whose creature type used to be "Uncle Istvan" (later changed to "human").
- But you can still have several Uncle Istvans in your deck, since he isn't legendary.
- It's older than that: Several creatures from Arabian Nights had unique creature types: Ali Baba, Ali from Cairo, Aladdin. If that set were made today, they'd be legendary.
- The Arabian Nights "should-be-legendary" creatures were introduced before legendary creatures existed. This was later explained by a sort of Retcon in the Magic novels stating that the plane of Rabiah was split into 1001 alternate-universe versions of itself, so there are actually supposed to be 1001 copies of each of these guys running around. However Uncle Istvan was introduced after legendary creatures already existed but designed before, and as he's from the original default setting of Dominaria he doesn't get the excuse 1000 extra copies.
- Warhammer has many, many examples. As well as the Gorgons and Medusae (see Mythology, above), there are examples of Hydras, Chimeras, Minotaurs, Harpies, Phoenixes, Pegasi and pretty much all the standard fantasy versions of this trope. Of special note is the Kharybdiss, however — a species of sea monster in Warhammer derived from the whirlpool-causing individual monster Karybdis in Homer's Odyssey. Karybdis's traditional mythological partner Scylla does inspire a Warhammer monster, but it is a unique individual (the Chaos Spawn Scyla Anfingrimm), rather than a species (in fact the Kharybdiss bears some similarities with Homer's description of Scylla).
- Age of Mythology allows players to raise armies of mythological creatures, that even have fairly correct Latin scientific names (all Half-Human Hybrid are Homo x — the Minotaur is Homo taurus — others take their known genus — the Nemean Lion is Leo biaxomus, the Pegasus is Equus pegasus, the Phoenix is Aquila inferna — and when no real life animal exists, a Latin word becomes the genus — the Chimera is Draco chimera, the Medusa is Gorgon chrysaorus).
- Quite common throughout the Super Mario Bros. universe:
- Yoshi is a species of dinosaur most often referred to as "Yoshis" in all games with others of his kind.
- Toad(s), though they used to be called Mushroom Retainers
- Kamek, at least in Japanese, where that is also the generic name of the enemy type that is known in English as Magikoopa.
- Bowser's Japanese name, Koopa became the name for the species of turtle-people he belongs too, in Japan they're simply the Turtle Tribe.
- Taken Up to 11 in the Shin Megami Tensei series, where every demon (which includes gods, angels, fairies. and other supernatural beings) is one of many of the same demon. It's possible to encounter half a dozen Rangda and Barong, fight Vishnu with another Vishnu, and dissuade Oberon from joining your party because another Oberon is already in the party. Conversations with NPC demons suggest that they are the same demons from the myths, but no explanation is given.
- The Cheat from Homestar Runner looks vaguely like a short, fat miniature cheetah; he's been referred to as "a The Cheat" (always with the article) and no other creature resembling him has ever been seen (except in Cheat Commandos, which is purely metafictional, note so all the Cheat Commandos characters may be depictions of him). One cartoon shows him hatching out of an enormous egg along with "a lifetime supply of fishsticks" and one of the video games has Strong Bad referring to his "hot mom", though, so possibly there are others.
- Dinosaur: "Look at all the Aladars!"
- A rather odd example in Futurama. Observing his behavior, Leela names a pet oh-so-cute creature "Nibbler". What does his species ultimately turn out to be called? "Nibblonians". Possible explanations include that they all do like eating things, and that the species name is only heard by psychic translation, so it may just have been their choice for her.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has several straight examples from Greek mythology: multiple pegasi, mulitple minotaurs and (implied) multiple chimaeras. But there's also an inverted example: in Aztec mythology, the ahuizotl was an entire species, but in MLP, Ahuizotl is the name of one individual villain.
- Numerous characters on The Venture Bros. refer to all vampires as "Draculas," with the exception of Jefferson Twilight, Blackula Hunter, who explains that he refers to black vampires as Blackulas because he can't think of a better name to distinguish them from other vampires.
- Caesar. It started as part of one man's family name, then became a term for emperors, spawning both Czar and Kaiser. Hilariously, Julius Caesar once proclaimed "I am not King, I am Caesar" in response to followers of his trying to proclaim him King of Rome — that's right, he insisted on being called "Caesar" as a show of humility.
- Renard, in France. The old French word for fox was "goupil". At the same time, there was a series of popular medieval stories about the Cunning Like a Fox Trickster Archetype (and literal anthropomorphic fox) Renard (or Reynard or Reynaud, i.e. Ronald) and his clashes with the wolf Isengrim. Because of a Speak of the Devil superstition that held that saying the name of a fox might cause it to appear and attack barn animals, people began to refer to all foxes as "Renard" until it stuck as the common name for the animal in French.
- This trope can be readily observed today in a similar vein; the popularity of Pixar's Finding Nemo has led to common/orange clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris/percula) and regal tangs (Paracanthurus hepatus) being consistently referred to as "Nemo fish" and "Dory fish" respectively. This tends to drive aquarium-keepers up a wall.
- The French word for jellyfish is méduse (Medusa).
- Same goes for Polish: meduza.
- The Sun, the Moon and the Galaxy... are the generally-accepted proper names of Earth's sun, moon and galaxy, after they turned out not to be unique. The Galaxy is usually called the Milky Way, which is a loose translation of "galaxy" into English. Science fiction often refers to the Sun and the Moon as "Sol" and "Luna", which is just the same thing, but with Latin instead of English.
- Doesn't help that many people, and even some sci-fi writers, confuse "sun" with "star". There is only one sun, i.e. the star of the sol system, which is only one of an undescribable number of stars across the universe.
- The same can be said of the planet Earth, which just means "dirt" or "the ground".
- Two partial examples are the words "ocean" and "psalm," which, while not categories of one, are categories with specific, defined members. An ocean is one of four/five specific bodies of water, depending on how you count the area around Antarctica. A psalm is one of the 150 songs or poems in the Book of Psalms. There presumably are not and can never be any other oceans or psalms.
- This also doesn't count oceans that existed in earlier geological epochs (such as Panthalassa), oceans predicted to arise in future epochs via continental drift, the subsurface oceans on Europa and Enceladus that have yet to be explored or named, Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon which isn't really an ocean, or any oceans which may be discovered on Earthlike extrasolar planets in the future.
- The split of the world oceans into multiple oceans is an example, too, as for the Ancient Greeks, the okeanos was one body of water encompassing the world.
- Also, there are other Hebrew poems who share most if not of the literary qualities of the psalms, and (in the NT) Greek passages written in stylistic imitation. These are usually called "canticles", but is there really that much difference?