A mannequin is a model of a human being, or of a large part of a human body. The construction materials used to make these models vary widely, as do their size and realism. They are probably most famous for their use in the fashion industry, but they are also used in medical training, art, and dressmaking. They can be purchased from specialty shops or through auctions; another great source is a struggling department store, which may be willing to give away its mannequins or sell them at a low cost if it goes out of business.
The spelling "manikin" is also correct, and it is derived from the same root word, the Dutch mannekijn, which means "little person." Originally, the Dutch used the term to refer to dwarfs, but over time it was also used in reference to jointed artist's models of the human body which were used when real people were not available. By 1570, English speakers were using "manikin" to talk about artists' models, and in 1902, the modern spelling was picked up from the French to describe models used to display clothing at department stores.
A department store mannequin is typically made life-size, although its measurements may be rather small and sometimes even disproportionate. Clothes and accessories can be displayed on them to make these items more appealing; depending on the store, they may or may not have heads. Some people find the faces — or lack thereof — a bit unsettling or odd, leading many stores to display clothing on headless bodies or torsos. Other stores need heads to display accessories like hats and headbands, or choose to use them to make a display feel more realistic.
High-end department store mannequins are jointed so that they can be put into varying positions, and they come in a range of skin tones. Less costly versions are cast in plastic in a generic pose. An artist's mannequin, on the other hand, is usually fully jointed, so that the artist can pose it as needed. These models also come in a range of sizes, from hand-sized to life-sized. Many graduates of art school have used them as tools to learn about anatomy, perspective, and other aspects of their craft.
Mannequins are also sometimes called dummies or lay figures, depending on the region of the world they are in. Medical professionals and engineers often refer to their models of people as dummies, since they use specialized models with articulated joints and other features to make them behave more like real human bodies. In medical training, advanced models are used to practice intubation skills, the placement of IV needles, and patient management; extremely sophisticated ones can even be programmed to demonstrate various symptoms and respond to treatment.