late 14c., in Greek legend, any of the three hideous sisters, with writhing serpents for hair, whose look turned beholders to stone, from Greek Gorgones (plural; singular Gorgo) "the grim ones," from gorgos "terrible, fierce, grim," of unknown origin. Transferred sense of "terrifyingly ugly person" is from 1520s. Their names were Medusa, Euryale, and Stheino, but when only one is mentioned, Medusa usually is meant. Slain by Perseus, her head was fixed on the aegis of Athena.
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