In Balkans folklore, a dhampir (sometimes spelled dhampyre, dhamphir, or dhampyr) is a creature that is the result of a union between a vampire and a human. This union was usually between male vampires and female humans, with stories of female vampires mating with male humans being rare.
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The word dhampir possibly derives from the words dham, Albanian Gheg variant of dhëmb (“tooth”) + pir, participle of pi (“to drink”), literally meaning 'that who drinks through his/her teeth'. It is also thought that word for vampire descends from Slavic "упирь" or "ǫpyrь".
The word dhampir may also have arisen from folk etymology due to the resemblance between the words vampir and dhampir.
The word "dhampir" is associated with Balkan folklore, as described by T. P. Vukanović. In the rest of the region, terms such as Serbian vampirović, vampijerović, vampirić (thus, Bosnian lampijerović, etc.) literally meaning "vampire's son", are used.
In other regions the child is named "Vampir" if a boy and "Vampirica" if a girl, or "Dhampir" if a boy and "Dhampirica" if a girl. In Bulgarian folklore, numerous terms such as glog (lit. "hawthorn"), vampirdzhiya ("vampire" + nomen agentis suffix), vampirar("vampire" + nomen agentis suffix), dzhadadzhiya and svetocher are used to refer to vampire children and descendants, as well as to other specialized vampire hunters. Dhampiraj is also an Albanian surname.
In the Balkans it was believed that male vampires have a great desire for women, so a vampire will return to have intercourse with his wife or with a woman he was attracted to in life. Indeed, in one recorded case, a Serbian widow tried to blame her pregnancy on her late husband, who had supposedly become a vampire, and there were cases of Serbian men pretending to be vampires in order to reach the women they desired. In Bulgarian folklore, vampires were sometimes said to deflower virgins as well. The sexual activity of the vampire seems to be a peculiarity of South Slavic vampire belief as opposed to other Slavs, although a similar motif also occurs in Belarusian legends.
Legends state that Dhampirs were, for the most part, normal members of the community. But Dhampirs, especially male, of paternal vampire descent could see invisible vampires and practice sorcery, often starting careers as vampire hunters, which would be practiced for generations from father to son.
Some traditions specify signs by which the children of a vampire can be recognized. Albanian legends state they have untamed dark or black hair and lack a shadow. In Bulgarian folklore, possible indications include being "very dirty", having a soft body, no nails and bones (the latter physical peculiarity is also ascribed to the vampire itself), and "a deep mark on the back, like a tail." In contrast, a pronounced nose was often a sign, as were larger than normal ears, teeth or eyes. According to J. Gordon Melton, from his book, The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, in some areas, a true dhampir possessed a "slippery, jelly-like body and lived only a short life—a belief ... that vampires have no bones."