The term derives from the Latin: hermaphroditus, from Ancient Greek: ἑρμαφρόδιτος hermaphroditos, which derives from Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology. According to Ovid, he fused with a nymph, Salmacis, resulting in one individual possessing physical traits of both sexes. Although according to Diodorus, who mentions at an earlier period, he was born with a physical body combining both sexes.
Many taxonomic groups of animals (mostly invertebrates) do not have separate sexes. In these groups, hermaphroditism is a normal condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the "female" or "male". For example, the great majority of pulmonate snails, opisthobranch snails and slugs are hermaphrodites. Hermaphroditism is also found in some fish species and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates. Most plants are also hermaphrodites.
Historically, the term hermaphrodite has also been used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochoristic species, especially human beings. The word intersex has come into preferred usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing, as well as "scientifically specious and clinically problematic".