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Incubus vs. Succubus: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 6, 2023
An incubus is a male demon believed to have sexual relations with sleeping women, while a succubus is its female counterpart, engaging with sleeping men.

Key Differences

Incubus and succubus are entities rooted deeply in folklore, mythology, and superstitions from various cultures. An incubus, traditionally, is a male demon believed to visit women at night and engage in sexual activity while they sleep. Such encounters were often used in historical contexts to explain pregnancies that couldn't be otherwise justified. The term "incubus" is derived from the Latin word 'incubare', which means 'to lie upon', hinting at the nature of the demon's interactions.
Succubus, on the other hand, is the female equivalent of an incubus. This demon is believed to visit sleeping men and partake in sexual activity with them. The term "succubus" originates from the Latin word 'succubare', meaning 'to lie beneath'. Like the incubus, the succubus has also been a subject of fascination in various tales, often portrayed as a seductress luring men into her web.
Throughout history, the tales of incubus and succubus have been interwoven with explanations for sleep paralysis, nocturnal emissions, and other sleep-related phenomena. In many cases, these entities were invoked as reasons for unexpected or unwanted pregnancies, providing a supernatural explanation for what was, at the time, socially unexplainable.
Cultures around the world have their own versions and names for these entities. However, despite the cultural differences and the various names they might bear, the central theme remains consistent: nocturnal demons that engage in intimate acts with unsuspecting humans. Both the incubus and the succubus are symbolic, in many ways, of primal fears, societal taboos, and the mysteries of the night.

Comparison Chart



Origin of Name

Latin 'incubare' (to lie upon)
Latin 'succubare' (to lie beneath)

Traditional Victims


Portrayal in Stories

Often forceful or predatory
Seductive and enticing


Counterpart of succubus
Counterpart of incubus

Incubus and Succubus Definitions


A cause of distress or anxiety.
The guilt was an incubus he couldn't shake off.


A female demon believed to lie with sleeping men.
Tales warned of the succubus luring unsuspecting men.


In folklore, a demon causing unexpected pregnancies.
Stories spoke of the incubus visiting the village women.


A seductive woman who drains the energy or life force.
The femme fatale in the story was like a succubus.


An oppressive weight on one's chest, associated with nightmares.
He felt the presence of an incubus during his sleep paralysis.


A demoness extracting the seed from men for the incubus to use.
Legends said the succubus and incubus worked in tandem.


A male demon believed to lie on sleeping women.
She dreamt of an incubus pressing down on her.


An enchantress ensnaring men with her allure.
She moved with the charm of a succubus, captivating all.


An evil spirit supposed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with women as they sleep.


An entity in folklore causing nocturnal emissions.
He was told a succubus visited him at night.


A nightmare.


A female demon supposed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with a man while he sleeps.


An oppressive or nightmarish burden.


An evil spirit; a demon.


(medieval folklore) An evil spirit supposed to oppress people while asleep, especially to have sex with women as they sleep.


(medieval folklore) A female demon which comes to men, especially monks, in their dreams to seduce them and have sexual intercourse, drawing energy from the men to sustain themselves, often until the point of exhaustion or death.


A feeling of oppression during sleep, sleep paralysis; night terrors, a nightmare.


A strumpet, whore or prostitute.


(by extension) Any oppressive thing or person; a burden.


A demon or fiend; especially, a lascivious spirit supposed to have sexual intercourse with the men by night; a succuba. Cf. Incubus.


(entomology) One of various of parasitic insects, especially subfamily Aphidiinae.


The nightmare. See Nightmare, 2.


A demon; a fiend; a lascivious spirit, supposed to have sexual intercourse with women by night.
The devils who appeared in the female form were generally called succubi; those who appeared like men incubi, though this distinction was not always preserved.


A female demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping men


The nightmare. See Nightmare.
Such as are troubled with incubus, or witch-ridden, as we call it.


Any oppressive encumbrance or burden; anything that prevents the free use of the faculties.
Debt and usury is the incubus which weighs most heavily on the agricultural resources of Turkey.


A male demon believed to lie on sleeping persons and to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women


A situation resembling a terrifying dream


Someone who depresses or worries others


A nightmare figure causing feelings of suffocation.
The incubus in his dreams was a recurring figure.


Are these entities always evil?

Traditionally, yes, but modern interpretations can vary.

Did people truly believe in them?

In historical contexts, they were used to explain unexplainable phenomena.

Is sleep paralysis linked to the incubus?

Historically, the sensations of sleep paralysis were often attributed to the incubus.

Are incubus and succubus real?

They're mythical entities with roots in folklore and superstition.

Can an incubus and succubus procreate?

Legends sometimes suggest they can, using stolen essence.

How can one ward off a succubus?

Folk tales suggest various talismans or religious symbols.

Have incubus and succubus been depicted in media?

Yes, they've appeared in films, books, and TV shows.

How are incubus and succubus viewed in modern times?

Mostly as mythological or fictional entities.

Are they always sexual in nature?

Primarily, but some stories focus on their draining energy.

Are there any positive portrayals of these entities?

Modern works occasionally depict them in a more neutral or positive light.

Can someone invoke an incubus or succubus?

Folk tales warn against trying, but it's pure superstition.

Do they have any weaknesses?

Folklore assigns various vulnerabilities, often religious.

Have they been subjects of art?

Yes, from ancient sculptures to modern paintings.

Are there any famous stories about them?

They appear in various classic and contemporary tales.

Can they shape-shift?

Some tales suggest they can assume different forms.

Do all cultures have similar entities?

Many cultures have nocturnal demons, but details vary.

Are there any famous incubus or succubus figures?

None historically verified, but many appear in fiction.

Were they used to explain certain medical conditions?

Historically, yes, like nocturnal emissions or sleep phenomena.

Are they related to vampires?

Both drain energy or life force, but they're distinct myths.

Are they immortal?

In most myths, they're ageless and immortal.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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