The word biscione is an augmentative of Italian biscia "non-venomous snake; grass snake" (corrupted from bistia, ultimately from Latin bestia). As the symbol of Milan, the biscione is also used by the football club Inter Milan, by car manufacturer Alfa Romeo (also known as the "Casa del biscione", Italian for "House of the biscione" or "Biscione['s] marque") and, in a version where a flower replaces the child, by the mass media company Mediaset. A similar design is found in the seals of the Hungarian nobleman Nicholas I Garay, palatine to the King of Hungary (1375–1385). Here the crowned snake devours a Sovereign's Orb, rather than a human.
Comparable to the biscione are some depictions of the Hindu deity Matsya. While his form is referred to as anthropomorphically having a humanoid upper half, and his lower half as that of a fish', some depictions show him with his upper body emerging from the mouth of a fish. In Early Christian Art of the catacombs, the Old Testament prophet Jonah is depicted as a man being swallowed (or regurgitated) by a serpent-like Leviathan, a sea creature of Hebrew myth.