Greco-Roman mythology is full of many examples of shape-changing. If you look only at Zeus/Jupiter alone, there are countless examples of him changing himself or changing others. Did the Romans have a specific word in Latin that meant "one-who-changes-shapes" like we do with "shapeshifter", or did they express this in other ways?

While I've found examples describing the act, I couldn't find anything used to describe a person or god as a shapeshifter.

3 Answers 3


The word you want is versipellis.

In a story told by one of the guests at Trimalchio's dinner party in Petronius (Satyricon 62), it's used specifically to describe a werewolf, but it generally means 'One who can metamorphose himself into different shapes or forms' (OLD). It's also used of Jupiter in Plautus (Amphitryon 123).

  • 1
    This is much better than my suggestion!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 19:22
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    I actually like having both answers! With both I could say something Iulius multiformis versipellis est / Many-shaped Julius is a shapeshifter.
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 1:20
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    This word is also discussed in the following question: What does a versipellis turn into?
    – Asteroides
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 9:35

My suggestion is multiformis. While the dictionary entry doesn't seem have anything like a shapeshifter, this word would be well understood in proper context, with clear and familiar components.

I am not familiar with the Romans having a specific term like modern English does, so adapting other vocabulary for that purpose may well be the only route available.


Versipellis is a good suggestion, but another, attested one is pluriformis:

plūrĭformis , e, adj. plures-forma,
I.having many forms, manifold, varied (postclass.): “pluriformi modo,” App. Flor. p. 341, 14; Mart. Cap. 7, § 729.

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