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Were and wer are archaic terms for adult male humans and were often used for alliteration with wife as "were and wife" in Germanic-speaking cultures, and in the Old English construction werman, paired with the parallel wifman, denoting males and females respectively, which share structure with the current English woman. (Old English: were, Old Dutch: wer, Gothic: waír, Old Frisian: wer, Old Saxon: wer, Old High German: wer, Old Norse: verr).
Etymology and usage
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Gothic has a word translating kosmos, not derived from the same stem: faírhvus, used by Ulfilas in alternation with manasêþs. The corresponding West Germanic term is werold "world", literally wer "man" + ald "age". Gothic faírhvus is cognate to Old High German fërah, Old English feorh, terms expressing "lifetime" (aevum).
In folklore and fantasy fiction, were- is often used as a prefix applied to an animal name to indicate a type of therianthropic or shapeshifter (e.g. "were-boar"). Hyphenation used to be mandatory, but is now commonly dropped, as in werecat and wererat. This usage can be seen as a back-formation from werewolf (literally, "man-wolf"), as there is no equivalent wifwolf yet attested.